Two South Africans, including a toddler, were among the 19 foreign nationals who had died in a fire that ripped through shopping mall in Qatar.
Thirteen of the 19 foreigners who died in the blaze were children.
The family of the South African toddler, 15-month-old Umar Emeran, were originally from Bo-Kaap in Cape Town.
A teacher at the nursery, Shameega Charles (28), originally from Mitchells Plain, also died in the fire.
International affairs spokesperson Nelson Kgwete confirmed to <em>Beeld</em> that a South African baby had died in the fire.
A Spanish diplomatic source in Madrid told Reuters that four of the dead children were Spanish.
It was not immediately clear what caused Monday’s blaze, which media reports said broke out at a childcare area at the Villagio Mall in Doha’s west.
Qatar’s interior ministry only confirmed that the fire had started somewhere between gates three and four in the mall and that an investigation was under way.
‘Extremely high heat’
“There don’t seem to have been any fire alarms or sprinklers at the mall,” a relative of a two-year-old child who died in the fire told Reuters, speaking by phone from Qatar’s Hamad hospital.
A ministry official said that all buildings in Qatar abide by safety regulations “with no exceptions” and that an investigative committee would be formed to look into safety requirements issues.
Smoke was seen billowing from the mall, which was evacuated. Ambulances and police vehicles blocked entry into the shopping complex.
“We tried to get to the children’s area but the extremely high heat stood in our way,” Brigadier Hamad al-Duhaimi of the Qatari civil defence told reporters.
A ministry official told journalists that none of the dead were Qataris. Four of the dead adults were teachers and the other two were civil defence personnel, the official said. Seventeen people were wounded, including four children, the official said.
The dead included three New Zealand children, believed to be two-year old triplets, who were in the childcare centre.
“The family are obviously dealing with terrible grief,” New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key told reporters.
“Obviously there are very serious questions that will need to be answered,” he added.
Many expatriates live in Qatar, a gas- and oil-rich Gulf Arab state with one of the highest standards of living in the world.
The Villagio Mall, which opened in 2006, is an Italianate-themed shopping complex with a hotel, theme park and canal plied by gondolas. – Reuters