14 Jun 2012

Fatal Doha daycare centre not licensed

11:57 pm on 14 June 2012

A daycare centre in Doha where 13 children died in a fire was not licensed by the Qatar government to operate as a nursery, according to an official report.

The blaze at the Villagio Mall on 28 May this year killed 19 people, including New Zealand triplets Lillie, Jackson and Willsher Weekes, aged 2, two nursery teachers and two fire-fighters.

A technical report released by the Qatar government says the blaze began in a sporting goods store after faulty wiring from a fluorescent light caused plastic in the roof to catch fire. It then spread to the Gympanzee nursery next door.

The report blamed what it called a lack of adherence to laws, systems and measures by all concerned parties to different degrees.

Tarek Bazley, a Radio New Zealand correspondent in Qatar, says fire crews arriving at the scene did not realise there were children in the nursery for 30 minutes - and even then, the report says access was difficult.

"They flag up the fact that the children, the carers, as well as two of the fire-fighters died up in that nursery in large part because they weren't able to access it fast enough."

The report goes on to say the nursery was not licensed and did not meet required safety conditions.

Mr Bazley says the owner argues it was not a nursery, but an activity centre with a different licence, and the report wants regulations to be reviewed.

"The safety requirements of what is a nursery, what is an activity centre haven't been examined in detail.

"The report calls for a review of the technical sides of how these things operate - the sprinkler systems and the smoke alarms - they want to find out why these didn't work properly and why they've ended up with such a tragic result."

The report also says the Villagio Mall was not connected to warning systems designed to deal with an emergency.

A criminal investigation is still underway.