x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Doha mall fire that killed 19 sparked by 'electrical fault'

Catalogue of failures from all parties led to tragedy that killed 19 people, including 13 children, at an unlicensed nursery.

DOHA // An electrical fault caused a shopping mall blaze in Doha last month that killed 19 people, most of them children at an unlicensed nursery, Qatar's state news agency QNA said yesterday, quoting fire investigators.

The blaze began in a sporting goods store in Villagio Mall, next to the Gympanzee nursery where 13 youngsters died.

It was "due to a faulty electrical wiring in a fluorescent light".

A statement explained that the plastic components of the light fixture caught fire and the flames rapidly spread, with smoke quickly reaching the adjacent nursery. "The fire was not premeditated," the statement added.

An attempt by a store employee and a mall security guard to extinguish the fire failed and the nursery caught fire, according to QNA.

Civil defence workers arrived at the scene three minutes after being alerted to the fire but only discovered half an hour later that there were children and staff trapped in the nursery.

An investigating committee found a "lack of adherence to laws, systems and measures by all concerned parties to different degrees. This includes adherence to design, licence and safety conditions, which contributed to the Villagio catastrophe."

The statement said that the nursery was not licensed by the ministry of social affairs and did not meet the necessary safety conditions.

There was also a "lack of response" among the mall's security staff as well the staff in the store where the fire started.

The committee found that there were no effective plans at Villagio to "prevent, contain or at least reduce the effects of such an incident," QNA said.

It issued 11 recommendations to help prevent or reduce the risk of any similar incidents in the future.

These included a review of the regulations governing the activities of baby-care facilities, which allow nurseries to register themselves under different names, such as "activity centres".

All of the 19 people killed in the inferno at the mall on May 28 - 13 children, four nursery staff and two fire fighters - were foreigners.

New Zealand triplets and three Spanish siblings were among the dead.