x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

First funerals of Doha mall fire victims take place

'We lost the sunshine of our lives': Triplets' parents grieve at a memorial as questions grow over Doha mall nursery fire.

New Zealand triplets Lillie, Jackson and Willsher Weekes died in a fire at the Villaggio mall in Doha, Qatar along with 10 other children and six adults.
New Zealand triplets Lillie, Jackson and Willsher Weekes died in a fire at the Villaggio mall in Doha, Qatar along with 10 other children and six adults.

As the first funerals of victims of the Doha mall fire took place yesterday, questions remained about the cause of the blaze that killed 19 people, 13 of them children.

About 2,000 people attended funeral prayers for a teacher and a 15-month-old boy, both South African, and one of two firefighters killed trying to rescue children from the Gympanzee nursery at Villaggio Mall. All were Muslims.

Later a crowd gathered at the city's Aspire Park to pay their respects to the dead. Among those attending were Martin and Jane Weekes, whose triplets Lillie, Jackson and Willsher, aged 2, perished in the fire.

Clutching their children's toys, the couple broke down and sobbed as fellow New Zealanders launched into an impromptu Maori blessing for the dead. Mereana Hond, 43, said: "They will have seen it many times before but never for them and never for their children."

In an emotional statement, the grieving parent described the triplets as "the sunshine of our lives".

The cause of the fire has not been made public, but questions remain about the nursery's location, with no fire exit to the exterior, and the apparent failure of a sprinkler system.

Sarah Suleiman, 26, who attended the triplets' memorial, said: "We have thousands of questions and I am angry about why it happened. We are one of the richest, most developed countries in the world, so we should have equally advanced procedures to stop this happening."

newsdesk@thenational.ae