Qatar probes mall fire that killed 19, young victims mourned

Qatar probes mall fire that killed 19, young victims mourned

An injured person is carried away after the Doha blaze. (Photo: EPA)

May 29, 2012, Tuesday/ 16:58:00

Investigators in Qatar have opened a state-ordered probe into a mall fire that killed 19 people, including 13 children at a daycare center catering to the Gulf nation’s expatriate communities.

The inquest began Tuesday amid questions by Qatari commentators and others about permitting such child care centers in commercial buildings. Among the victims were 2-year-old New Zealand triplets, four children from Spain and an 18-month-old toddler from South Africa.  Rescue crews had to hack through the roof of the vast Villaggio mall on Monday to reach the child care facility.

At least some of the victims died as rescuers struggled to reach a child care center at the Villaggio mall in the capital Doha late Monday, according to Qatar’s Minister of State for Interior Affairs, Sheik Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani. “We tried our best, but when we got there, the children were trapped inside. We are very sorry for what happened. We tried as much as we could to save these people,” Sheik Abdullah told reporters in Doha.

Four of the children killed were Spanish citizens living in the small Arab emirate, the Spanish Foreign Ministry said. It did not identify the children, citing Spanish privacy regulations.

Also, a 3-year-old French child was among the victims, the deputy minister for overseas French citizens, Yamina Benguigui, said in a statement.

Two-year-old New Zealand triplets, Lillie, Jackson and Willsher Weekes, were among the victims, according to New Zealand media reports. “Our daughter rang. What can you say? It’s absolutely devastating,” the children’s grandmother, Jo Turner, told Fairfax Media. “They were everything to her. She was a great mum. She was a hands-on mum.”

Turner said her daughter, Jane Weekes, had lived in Qatar for about five years, although she had returned to New Zealand to give birth to the triplets.

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