Manama: A raging fire in Doha’s Villagio Mall on Monday killed 19 people, including 13 children, four women teachers and two civil defence personnel, according to Qatar’s interior ministry.
President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan sent a cable of condolences to Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, Emir of Qatar, offering condolences on the tragedy.
His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, also sent similar condolence cables.
The fire in Doha’s main shopping centre broke out at 11.30am (0800 GMT), the ministry said. It quoted Minister of State for Interior Affairs Abdullah Bin Nasser Al Thani as telling reporters that the “public prosecution has taken charge of the investigation”.
The victims included people from Spain, Japan, the Philippines, Benin and Arab countries not including Qatar, officials said.
Four of the children killed were Spanish citizens, the Spanish Foreign Ministry said. Also, a three-year-old French child was among the victims, the deputy minister for overseas French citizens, Yamina Benguigui, said.
The fire prompted a tweeting frenzy that caused widespread panic among Doha’s residents. However, the interior ministry said the fire had been controlled and shoppers evacuated. "Firefighters and other security personnel are trying to clear the smoke and cool the place. Cooperate with the police and convey only the facts," the ministry posted on its Facebook account earlier in the day. "Everyone is requested not to spread rumours as it will create panic among people. Be responsible and cooperate with the security personnel," it said.
The interior ministry said that the fire started at Gate 3 of mall. Witnesses said that at least two major shops in the vicinity were gutted. Villagio is one of the most popular shopping malls in Qatar.