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QATAR Electrical fault caused deadly Doha mall fire

‘Gympanzee’ not licensed as nursery and did not meet safety conditions

By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief
June 14, 2012

Manama: The commission tasked with investigating the Doha Villaggio Mall blaze in which 19 people were killed has published a searing report that detailed a cascade of human and technical errors.

The report confirmed that the fire on May 28 was not an act of arson as several non-Qatari news sites alleged in early June before the interior ministry issued a strong denial.

According to the findings, the blaze started as a result of a faulty electrical wiring at a sportswear shop that resulted in the ignition of its plastics components that fell on items made of flammable material.

“A staff from the Nike store and a Villaggio security man have failed to put out the fire; the first smoke was recorded at 10.50am,” the report, posted by the official Qatar News Agency (QNA), said.

The fire spread rapidly and the smoke reached the adjacent ‘Gympanzee’, the daycare centre where the 13 children, their four teachers and the two firefighters died.

“The civil defence was informed about the fire at 11.02am after a distress call from one of the civil defence staff, who was near the Villaggio complex. The civil Defence arrived at the scene at about 11.05am, but learned that there are children trapped in the “Gympanzee” half an hour after they reached the mall,” the report said.

The Search and Rescue Team led the Internal Security Force (Lekhoya) started its operations to remove the trapped victims and succeeded to rescue the first child at 12.50am.

In their observations, the investigation team members said that they discovered an alarming lack of compliance with the laws, regulations and procedures by all concerned parties, albeit to different degrees.

There were failures to uphold standards in design, license, and safety conditions, the report said. “The ‘Gympanzee’ was not licensed as a nursery by the Ministry of Social Affairs and did not meet the necessary safety conditions and the commission was not able to confirm the presence of fire sprinklers in the Nike store.

The report said that there was a lack of adequate response among the Villaggio security team, including the Nike store’s staff, and that there were no emergency plans at Villaggio to prevent, contain or reduce the effects of incidents. The commission noted that there was no early warning detection system in the commercial complex.

The report also highlighted the poor coordination between government agencies responsible for public safety and deficiencies in fire standards in the daycare centre, the Villaggio Mall and other buildings in Qatar.

The commission, set up hours after the tragedy struck in Doha, issued 11 recommendations to prevent or reduce the risk of similar incidents in the future.

They included an overhaul of regulations governing babycare facilities (nurseries), and the drawing of an exhaustive list of the buildings and facilities that do not comply with safety standards.

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