Manama/Doha: Qatar authorities have shut down the country’s largest shopping and recreation centre, the City Centre, until all safety concerns are properly addressed.
The centre that receives 40,000 visitors a day and up to 70,000 a day over the weekend has apparently failed to comply with safety requirements, an investigation team has found out, a local daily reported.
“The Civil Defence team made a surprise visit to the mall at around 5am on Thursday,” Al Arab said. “The team discovered that the mall had introduced unlicensed changes and failures in safety standards that could put people’s lives at risk,” it said.
The interior ministry pledged a zero-tolerance policy towards any public building that failed to comply with safety and security standards and said that it would not hesitate to shut down any facility that put people’s lives at risk.
The ministry did not specify how long the five-storeyed City Centre in Doha’s posh West Bay would remain closed, the management has reportedly put up a notice on its entrance gates informing that the mall would be closed for 48 hours.
According to local reports, demands by the civil defence included installing new fire safety equipment to help with emergency evacuations, making emergency exits automatically linked to the safety alarm system and setting up a central control room to monitor the mall.
The civil defence is set to conduct more visits to public places, including malls, hotels, cinemas, schools and large residential facilities, to assess their levels of readiness to deal with emergency incidents.
The Civil Defence announced that it will make surprise visits to public institutions and inspect their safety and security measures and if they do not comply with the standards, they will be shut down or will be given up to 30 days to fix the faults or .
If the institutions do not raise the standards after the time limit, a fine up to 200,000 riyals will be imposed, or the building will be shut down.
The aggressive seriousness about safety hazards by the authorities was prompted by the worst tragedy to hit Qatar in modern times.
A blaze that broke out at the Villaggio Mall in Doha on May 28 killed 19 people, including 13 children, inside a daycare centre that was not properly licenced by the education authorities.
An ad-hoc commission set up by Crown Prince Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani hours after the tragedy found after one week of investigations that the highly popular mall did not have the safety standards required by the authorities.
It also discovered that the daycare centre in which the 13 children, four staff and two firefighters died, had a licence from the trade ministry.
Other issues of concern were related to the mall staff readiness to deal with emergency situations and the lack of communication with the rescue teams.
The firefighters learned about the existence of children and staff trapped inside the first floor daycare centre about 30 minutes after they arrived to the mall to deal with the fire that was started by a faulty wiring.
The closure of two malls in Doha has seemingly caused consternation among a Qatar population that has made visiting malls, mainly during weekends, as one of their top activities.