Two-year old triplets killed in Doha mall blaze

New Zealand triplets among 19 reported dead so far at Villaggio Mall; probe starts into cause of tragedy
Two-year old triplets killed in Doha mall blaze
L-R: Lillie, Jackson, Willsher Weekes. Age 2 (Supplied photo).
By Daniel Shane
Mon 28 May 2012 03:28 PM

Two-year old triplets have been confirmed as being among those left dead after a huge fire at a shopping mall in Qatari capital Doha on Monday that left 19 dead, including 13 children.

The triplets, from New Zealand, perished when a fire broke out at the nursery in the city's Villaggio Mall, the country's prime minister John Key confirmed today.

New Zealand press has named the children as Lillie, Jackson and Willsher Weekes, and the parents as Jane and Martin Weekes.

"It's a great tragedy," Key told reporters, according to AFP. "Their family are obviously dealing with the terrible grief that they have at this time. Obviously it's a very tragic day for that family."

He added that the parents had been working in the Gulf state for some time.

Qatar's minister of state for interior affairs, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Bin Khalifa Al Thani, promised a full investigation into the cause of yesterday's tragedy at Villaggio Mall. He also expressed his condolences to families of those who died in the fire.

A committee will be set up to examine the minimum safety requirements in buildings such as shopping malls, the ministry said in a Twitter update.

Villaggio Mall, a 360,000 sq m retail centre in Qatari capital Doha, was engulfed by a huge fire earlier on Monday.

The victims included people from Spain, Japan, the Philippines, Benin and Arab countries not including Qatar, the officials said.

The mall, which is located in the west end of the city in the Aspire Zone development, caught fire at approximately 11am local time, leading to hundreds of visitors to be evacuated.

Up to 180 civil defence personnel were said to be involved in extinguishing the blaze and rescue efforts.

The minister said a full inspection of the mall had been carried out and there were no reports of missing people.

No casualties were initially reported, according to the Qatari Ministry of Interior’s official Twitter page, although some shoppers were said to be suffering from “suffocation”.

However, by 4pm local time Doha News was reporting an eyewitness account that 12 children had died after the fire spread to a play area.

In a press conference held in the city on Monday evening, Qatar's government confirmed that 19 had perished: 13 children, four teachers and two civil defence workers.

A further 17 people were injured in the fire: four of them children and a number of civil defence workers.

No explanation over how the fire started has yet been provided, although a tweet from the Ministry of Interior explained that a "lack of floor plans, thick smoke and heat and malfunctioning sprinkler systems hindered rescue efforts" during the fire.

Opened in 2006, Villaggio was named one of the world’s most luxurious malls by Forbes magazine in 2008. The centre features 220 retail, entertainment and dining outlets.

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