x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Grieving families of Qatar mall fire's 19 dead furious at reopening

The families of the victims of the fire in Doha's Villaggio Mall that claimed the lives of 19 people say they are angry that the shopping centre may be reopened.

Nineteen people died in the fire on May 28 after children and staff were trapped in a nursery inside the mall.
Nineteen people died in the fire on May 28 after children and staff were trapped in a nursery inside the mall.

The Villaggio Mall in Doha partially reopened its doors this week more than three months after a fire killed 19, including 13 children, at the Gympanzee nursery.

The families of the child victims of the mall fire said yesterday that they were "angered" that the upmarket shopping centre had reopened and demanded that those responsible for the tragedy "face justice".

In a letter sent to The National yesterday, relatives of the children who died in the fire said that while they knew the mall would at some point reopen, they were shocked that neither the Villaggio Mall nor the government "had the respect to contact us in advance to explain this decision".

"We are angered that Villaggio has not even had the courtesy to invite us to grieve for our children in private at the location they died," read the letter. "The owners and the management should be ashamed."

The fire also claimed the lives of four nursery staff and two firefighters. No one from Villaggio Mall could be contacted for comment.

An electrical fault in a sporting-goods store on the second floor is thought to have started the blaze. Shoppers reported that the area, located between Gates 3 and 4, was still shuttered.

Qatar's attorney general ordered the arrest of five people in connection with the fire soon after the incident. The criminal prosecution over responsibility for the fire was postponed earlier this month because two of those charged failed to appear.

"Whilst we accept the right of Villaggio to reopen we also assert our rights as the families of the victims of this crime," the letter said. "Those individuals responsible must face justice. We have legitimate questions to be answered."

Family members of the dead also reminded consumers that they have a choice of where to shop.

"If you choose to return to Villaggio we have one request. Each time you return, remember. Remember the memories of those who died - including our 13 most precious children. Remember those who died trying to save our children ... And remember that justice has not been done.''