Qatar shopping mall fire kills 19 people | News | DW | 29.05.2012
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Qatar shopping mall fire kills 19 people

At least 19 people, most of them children, have died in a fire at a luxury shopping mall in Qatar. Initial investigations into safety have highlighted a number of possible failings.

The Qatari Interior Ministry said 13 children were among those killed in the fire on Monday. Some of the victims had been trapped inside a child care center at the Villaggio mall in the capital, Doha.

Thick black smoke could be seen pouring from the mall, as fire fighters made rescue attempts via the roof.

"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," Minister of State for Interior Affairs, Sheik Abdullah, told reporters.

Four of those killed were Spanish children living in the Arab emirate, the Spanish Foreign Ministry said.

Firefighters stand next to an entrance of the Villagio Mall, in Doha's west end

Failures with the mall's sprinkler system have been raised as a possible contributing factor

A three-year-old French child was also among the victims, according to a statement from the French deputy minister for overseas citizens, Yamina Benguigui.

New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key said that three triplets from his country were thought to ne among the dead, although this could not immediately be confirmed.

The fire was extinguished hours later, according to the Interior Ministry, and an investigation into the cause of the fire was set to continue on Tuesday.

Among the factors believed to have hindered rescue efforts were thick smoke, a lack of available floor plans and failed sprinkler systems.

A committee will now be established to monitor building safety standards. The mall, which opened in 2006, is one of Qatar's most popular shopping destinations.

rc/av (AP, AFP, Reuters)