Qatar’s Culture Minister’s daughter is among five people who have been arrested in connection with the fire that swept through Doha’s elite Villaggio Mall on Monday. Imran al-Kuwairi owns the Gympanzee nursery where the fire erupted, killing 19 people. Among the dead are triplets from New Zealand, three Spanish siblings, two firefighters and four caretakers.
At a public vigil held on Tuesday, the Culture Minister Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kuwairi said that his daughter “is the saddest person on earth,” according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, distraught parents of the triplets have called the incident a tragedy and an accident, but have expressed that they do not want to place blame.
The mall’s chief manager and head of security are also being held following witness accounts that mall officials were negligent in their emergency response duties. Qatar’s Attorney General issued called for the arrests yesterday, though it isn’t certain what charges have been made.
According to Reuters, the nursery at the end of a hallway was only accessible by a small passage. Since there was no fire escape, the room became a “death trap” filled with dense smoke and intense heat after the staircase collapsed. Rescue workers were forced to smash through the mall’s roof in an effort to reach the children.
Moroccan firefighter died holding two children in his arms
Arab Times Online reports that “Abdel Khaleq al-Huwari, one of dozens of firemen who responded to the blaze, told AFP that the rescue teams were not informed about the existence of a nursery in the mall until half an hour after they arrived on the scene.”
By the time he reached the nursery, al-Huwari found Moroccan firefighter Husam Shahboun lying dead on the floor “holding two children in his arms. The other (Iranian) firefighter was barely alive when we found him,” Huwari told the paper. “We tried to save him but he died.”
We will continue to follow the developments, and sincerely hope that this devastating event will spur sweeping changes in planning and safety law – not only in the Gulf, but throughought the Middle East, where even more tragedies are inevitable given the shoddy state of construction affairs.
image via Doha News, Tumblr
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