Three of the four young Spanish children who died in yesterday's fire at a Qatari shopping complex were siblings aged between 2 and 7 years. Their father is in charge of hospital construction project being carried out by OHL in Doha. The other Spanish child to perish is a seven-year-old girl whose family originally comes from Campo de Criptana (Ciudad Real).
A total of 19 people died in the blaze, including 13 children, four of them Spanish. French authorities have confirmed that a three-year-old French girl was amongst the dead and three others are thought to be from New Zealand. A further 17 people were injured.
Footage of the fire broadcast by Al Jazeera showed huge plumes of black smoke rising up from the Villaggio centre. Initial reports suggest that the fire began in a restaurant in the mall, but quickly spread to other areas, including the Gympanzee nursery where the children were.
Reports say that the evacuation was very chaotic and there is some criticism of the way the incident was handled by the emergency services. Officials say some sprinklers and alarms failed to work, while floor plans did not have emergency exits correctly marked. Most shoppers were unaware anything was wrong. One was told to continue eating a meal; another emerged from a shop's dressing room to find all the staff had left.
Gradually, an evacuation began. Some shoppers heard the barely audible alarms, but others heard nothing, running as they saw smoke spreading down hallways. A group of children and their teachers in the mall's nursery on the first floor were unable to get out.
Officials say firefighters were initially unaware there was a nursery inside and were concentrating their efforts on extinguishing the blaze. Witnesses say as soon as they realised there was a nursery with children inside, they went in to try to save them, but at least half an hour had gone by already. Two firemen died trying to rescue the children.
Daya Jaled, who was on the scene, said "They couldn't go into the building through the entrances at that stage and had to go in through the roof, but it was already too late".
The Qatari Interior Minister, Abdala bin Naser bin Jalifa al Zani, has given assurances that a full investigation wil be carried out to find out what caused the fires and promised to "immediately" punish anyone guilty of negligence.
Sheikh Tamim al Hamad al Zani, the Crown Prince of Qatar, has ordered the immediate creation of a commission to investigate the incident, headed by the country's deputy prime minister, Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah.