Sheikh Tamim gives assurance on fire probe
Sheikh Tamim gives assurance on fire probe
HH the the Deputy Emir and Heir Apparent promises to inform the families about the results of the ongoing investigation into the cause of the blaze
HH the Deputy Emir conveyed condolences of the Qatari government and people to the families during visits to the embassies of China, Canada, Egypt, Morocco, the Philippines, the United States and Spain. Condolences were also offered to gatherings of families of South African, New Zealand and Iranian victims
By Peter Townson
HH the the Deputy Emir and Heir Apparent Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani yesterday visited the families and embassies of the victims of Monday’s devastating fire at Villaggio mall, expressing condolences on behalf of HH the Emir and promising to inform the families about the results of the ongoing investigation into the cause of the blaze.
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad assured all involved that “the state will show no leniency and will punish anyone who fell short in performing his duty”.
He visited the embassies of South Africa, China, Canada, Egypt, Morocco, the Philippines, New Zealand, the United States, Spain and Iran.
The Qatari cabinet also issued a statement, expressing its condolences to the victims of the fire which claimed the lives of 19 people, including 13 children of the Gympanzee daycare centre at the mall.
Copies of licences from the Ministry of Business and Trade for Gympanzee have been seen by Gulf Times, in which the company was licensed for six purposes: a playroom for children’s activity, area for taekwando, trading of sports apparel, trading of soda and juice, trading of mineral water and sale of children’s toys.
In an open letter yesterday, the Weekes family, who lost two-year old triplets, Lillie, Jackson and Willsher in the fire, thanked the community for the response since news of the devastating accident emerged. They asked for patience, calling for the Qatari government to invite foreign experts with experience of such accidents to assist with the investigation and urging people to stop spreading “misguided speculation” about the authorities.
Meanwhile, online coverage of the events of the past three days has attracted international media attention, and local news outlets have been criticised for their lack of coverage. Newspaper editors have blasted TV and radio stations for failing to provide any updates on the situation as rumours continued to spread throughout the day on Monday.
Online news broadcasters , on the other hand, have been praised widely, and were featured on international websites as a result of the comprehensive live reporting they have been conducting throughout the tragedy. The power of social media has been clearly seen in the aftermath of the accident, firstly in providing an outlet for people to express their condolences and arrange community gatherings, but also as a portal for further information about the events and also to raise questions.
Gulf Times spoke to a number of families and safety experts who have expressed their concerns about safety regulations being enforced throughout the country.
One British expatriate said: “Of course the mall should have the correct measures in place to deal with a fire, but it is also up to the authorities to enforce the laws and make sure that this is the case. I saw that fire equipment was being checked at Landmark today and I seriously hope that every building and organisation thinks strongly about their fire regulations to ensure that nothing like this happens again in the future – it is just such a shame it has taken this tragedy to make people think about it,” she added.
However, one long-time resident described the measures as “too little, too late”. Another expressed her shock at witnessing the fire safety arrangements at numerous buildings throughout Qatar, noting that fire exits are often left locked or inaccessible.
An expert dealing with fire and safety, who wished to remain anonymous, said that he had seen many cases of safety violations at various locations throughout Qatar. He urged the authorities to investigate the situation across the country and make necessary changes to ensure that standards are upheld at all times.
“I’m still in shock – I cannot believe this has happened and I just cannot imagine the grief that the families must be feeling right now,” said another expat.
Firefighters tell of battle to save children
Firefighters in Qatar told yesterday how they tried to rescue 13 children trapped by a blaze in a mall nursery but by the time they reached the toddlers most were dead, huddled in the arms of two fellow firemen who perished during the rescue attempt. The inferno at Doha’s Villaggio mall on Monday killed 19 foreigners, including 13 children, four teachers, and the two firemen. As smoke and flames surrounded the nursery, two of the four teachers sent farewell text messages and made their final calls to family letting them know they would not be coming home. “I’m dying,” one of the three Filipino teachers trapped in the fire told her aunt in a text message before she succumbed, according to Marilyn Evangelista, the victim’s friend interviewed on the Al Jazeera English television channel.
HH the Deputy Emir and Heir Apparent Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani yesterday conveyed condolences of HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and his own respects to families of Villaggio mall fire victims and of the “martyrs of duty”.