Thirteen children were among 19 people killed in a fire that broke out in the high-end Villaggio shopping mall in Qatar Monday, according to the country's interior ministry. The cause of the deadly blaze is still under investigation.
A ministry official told journalists that none of the dead were Qataris, and diplomatic sources tell Reuters that four of the dead children were Spanish and one 3-year-old deceased was French. In December 2010, Qatar won the right to host soccer's 2022 World Cup, the most widely viewed sporting event in the world. Concerns were expressed when Fifa made the announcement regarding the conservative Islamic country's ability to host 400,o00 fans and accommodate demand for alcohol and potential rowdy behavior. Monday's fire raises further general questions about safety in the booming Gulf state.
The Associated Press reports that at least some of the victims died as rescuers struggled to reach a child care center at the mall in the capital Doha.
"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.
The Qatari ministry said in a tweet on their official Twitter page that four teachers and two civil defense officials--believed to be firefighters-- were among the dead. BBC News reports on the blaze and hectic evacuation from the mall:
Eyewitnesses spoke of thick black smoke billowing from the centre.
Police were sent to the scene to evacuate the complex, while medics were treating the injured.
"There don't seem to have been any fire alarms or sprinklers at the mall," a relative of one of the victims told Reuters.
The fire was later extinguished, Mr Thani said.
Reports say that the evacuation was very chaotic and there is some criticism of the way the incident was handled by the emergency services.
AP reports that another 17 people were injured, including four children, according to authorities. Video of the fire from RT: