31 May 2012

Doha firefighters tell of fight to save children

2:34 pm on 31 May 2012

Firefighters in Doha have told of how they tried to rescue the children in the day care centre in Villagio Mall, but found most were already dead.

Nineteen people died in the fire on Monday including 13 children, several of whom were huddled in the arms of two firemen who also died in the rescue bid.

As smoke and flames engulfed the Gympanzee nursery, two of the four teachers who died sent farewell text messages and made their final calls to family in the Philippines telling them that they would not be coming home.

Fireman Abdel Khaleq al-Huwari told AFP that the rescue teams were not told there was a nursery in the mall until 30 minutes after they arrived.

Mr al-Huwari said a mall employee eventually told them there it on the first floor of the complex, but it was difficult to find and had no emergency exits.

Another firefighter, Amran Mohsen, told AFP that some of the fire alarms were not working. Mr Mohsen said that all of the children in the nursery had died: "five in the ambulance, three at the hospital and the rest right at the spot."

No official statement on the cause of the fire has been issued. Al-Jazeera reported that Crown Prince Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani has set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the tragedy amid mounting allegations of negligence.

Attorney-General Ali bin Futeis Al-Murri "ordered the arrest of the Villagio mall owner ... its manager and its deputy manager," the official QNA news agency reported on Tuesday.

QNA said arrest warrants had also been issued for the mall's deputy director of security and for the owner of the nursery where the children and teachers died.