Qatar: How Was a Luxury Shopping Mall So Unsafe?
“There is no one inside,” the distraught mother exclaimed through tears, standing outside as fire raged through the Villaggio mallin Doha, Qatar. “My boys I’m sure they are inside and all of us are outside. Our family is inside!”
That reaction exemplified the horrifying scenes accompanying a fire which killed 13 children and four female teachers who were inside the Gympanzee childcare centre on the mall’s first floor on the morning of May 28 Australian Eastern Standard Time. Two civil defence personnel were also killed in the blaze.
The mother’s cry that ‘no-one’ was inside referred to firefighters being unable to access the building through ordinary entry points, partly because of heavy smoke but also due to narrow corridors. Following the tragedy, she and many other parents will no doubt want to know why such a scenario could have been possible in the first place.
They are not the only ones. Qatar Crown Prince Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani also wants answers and has set up a special commission to examine the incident.
Narrow corridors and lack of accessible entry points will not be the only thing commissioners will question. They will also want to know whether reports of sprinkler systems not working properly are correct – and if so, why?. They might also want to look into why New Zealand journalist Tarek Bazley, who was in the mall at the time the fire broke out, heard only a benign alarm sounding more like a doorbell than anything remotely indicating an emergency, and why he was told it was usually a false alarm....