Authorities have issued arrest orders following Monday’s fire that engulfed Doha’s Villaggio Mall, killing 19 people. The owner of the mall and a handful of officials accused of failing to properly respond to the emergency face arrest, and the owner of the daycare facility where 13 children, including two-year old triplets from New Zealand and three Spanish siblings, faces detention as investigators search for clues that will shed light on the cause of the fire, according to Qatar’s official news agency.
Murder in Doha?
Attorney General Ali bin Feitais al-Marri issued the arrest orders amid public outcries and murder accusations after Monday’s tragedy. The Villaggio’s sprinkler system failed and emergency responders were unable to navigate the building as no floorplans or blueprints were available. Rescue crews eventually broke through the roof of the mall in order to reach the daycare facility that was situated at the end of long, twisted hallways, according to local papers.
The fire’s cause has not been identified, but the state has ordered an investigation and the results are expected to be released within a week.
“What happened is similar to murder because of the lack of safety measures in such complexes,” wrote Saleh al-Kuwari, editor of the Al Raya newspaper in Doha. Other Arab writers have issued similar vitriols, demanding more accountability, better safety regulations and more systematic reviews of buildings constructed with such enormous haste.
Condolences for fire deaths not enough
Qatar Prime Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr Al Thani offered public condolences to “all the parents and relatives of those killed in this horrible fire,” while Arab leaders across the region have commisserated with Qatar’s emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. But these gestures will do little to stay the public’s growing anger as many argue that safety takes a back seat to profit where the region’s explosive construction boom is concerned.
Similar tragedies have occured in the neighboring United Arab Emirates, where authorities are considering a plan to ban flammable panels in skyscraper construction projects – a case of too little too late.
This unfathomable tragedy is bound to lead to a belated sweep of safety measures and emergency response throughout the region, which will do little to assuage the parents who have lost their children, or the families of the two firemen and caretakers who also perished in the fire.
But Qatar is bound to feel the heat during the lead-up to the 2022 soccer World Cup when thousands of fans will expect to feel safe in newly-constructed solar-powered stadiums and other facilities.
image via CC Qatar, Flickr
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