Qatar was united in prayers as the nation mourned 13 kindergarten children who were burned to death in a devastating fire that swept through the main Villagio shopping centre in the capital city of Doha.
A Ministry of Interior spokesman said the fire claimed 19 lives, including seven boy and six girl students, four of their female teachers and two civil defence personnel who fought valiantly to tame the fire and save lives. Sources said three of the four teachers who died were Filipinas.
Sources said authorities had cordoned off the area as soon as the fire broke out around 11:30am and thick black smoke billowed from the shopping centre as emergency vehicles rushed to the scene.
According to the sources, the children and teachers who lost their lives belonged to Gympanzee nursery that operated out of the mall, which is one of Qatar’s most popular shopping and amusement destinations. The upscale Italian-themed shopping centre, which opened in 2006, is famous for its ice-skating rink and gondola rides.
None of the dead were Qatari nationals, the Interior Ministry official said, adding that 17 people, including civil defence personnel and four children, were wounded in the blaze.
Earlier, the ministry said on its Twitter page, quoting State Minister for Interior Shaikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani, that the “public prosecution has taken charge of the investigation”.
In Madrid, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said: “Four of the dead children are Spanish,” and added that Spanish embassy officials were trying to get more details.
(With inputs from Suresh Pattali and AFP)