Ten minutes after a fire broke out in Doha’s Villaggio Mall yesterday, an expatriate and Doha News reader Paula Rodrigues Duarte claimed that officials failed to discourage her from entering the mall. “Not security or police. I was actually walking towards it unknowingly till I saw people running back and turned around and left. No alarms, no sprinklers, nothing,” she wrote on the paper’s Facebook page. 19 People died in the fire, including triplets from New Zealand.
Fire alarm sounds like a door bell
Doha readers started complaining about this particular mall in 2009 when someone discovered that the fire escape doors were padlocked. Yesterday, the failure to address such complaints resulted in a terrible tragedy that killed 13 children, two firemen and four other people.
An expatriate journalist from New Zealand claimed that as he was walking through the mall yesterday with his two children, the fire alarm was so faint it sounded more like a door bell than a serious alarm.
“The volume of smoke coming out of it, it looked like you had 30 steam trains all pumping their smoke out above it,” Mr Bazley told Radio New Zealand.
Qatar’s lack of fire planning
He also complained of a “complete lack of planning, a complete lack of coordination in terms of removing people from this area,” according to The Telegraph.
“Apparently the staircase to the nursery collapsed making it impossible to reach the babies except through the roof but by then it was too late, wrote Mrs. Duarte.
This is not the first time poor planning has had tragic consequences, not just in Qatar or even the Gulf, but throughout the Middle East. Earlier this year in Beirut a building collapsed, killing at least 19 people and prompting calls from a university professor to demand better regulations to prevent further fatalities.
Too often development programs are pushed through without proper due process – a situation that Arwa unravelled with renowned mud architect Salma Samar Damluji, who sites greed as a principle driver of large scale construction projects imbued with the bigger is better mentality so common in Dubai.
No expense is spared to get these colossal malls built. The same due diligence should be paid to health and safety as well.
image via Doha News, Tumblr
More on Urban Planning in the Middle East:
Professor Urgest Stricter Regulations to Prevent Building Fatalities in Beirut
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