Expatriates from South Africa, Spain, New Zealand among victims of Qatar mall fire

Story highlights

  • In all, 19 people died, most at a child care center
  • The victims are seven girls, six boys, four teachers, and two would-be rescuers
  • Four were Spanish, three from New Zealand; two from South Africa and one from France
  • The nationalities of the other nine are not known

As Qatari officials continue their investigation into whether sprinklers and alarms were working during a fire at an upscale shopping mall in Doha, more information surfaced Tuesday about the nationalities of those who perished in the fire.

In all, the fire at the Villaggio shopping mall Monday killed 19 people, most of them at a child care center inside that rescuers had to break into from the rooftop.

The victims were seven girls, six boys, four teachers, and two would-be rescuers, Qatari officials said.

Most of the victims were expatriates: four Spanish nationals; a set of triplets from New Zealand; South African child and teacher; and a 3-year-old French child, according to the foreign ministries of the respective nations.

The nationalities of the remaining nine is still unknown.

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Seventeen others were injured, including firefighters and four children.

State news agency QNA agency quoted Brig. Gen. Othman al-Duhaimi, the operations chief for Qatar's civil defense agency, as saying alarms went off in some shops, and that some of the pipes that carried water for the sprinklers may have been leaking -- and that those issues would be addressed in the investigation.

    Mall fire: "Accident waiting to happen?"

    Christine Wigton, an American living in Doha, told CNN she heard "a buzzer, not very loud" as she walked into the mall, but heard no loud alarms as smoke built up inside. Elementary school-age children were eating at some of the restaurants and no one was trying to escape, she said.

    "When I got a little bit closer, I realized the smoke was just increasing and people were still shopping. And the smoke kept getting heavier and heavier," Wigton said. She said she left when the smoke became "too much."

    "There were no sprinklers, and there was nothing that would tell somebody that something was wrong," she said.

    Built in 2006, the mall advertises itself as "the newest and the largest entertainment center in Doha."

    The Venice-themed complex features gondola rides down an indoor canal, an artificial sky, a 13-screen movie theater, a theme park, skating rink and a bowling alley.

    Qatar's interior minister, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Bin Khalifa Al Thani, said the civil defense office reviews safety standards for commercial buildings before they grant a license.

    "The investigation will clarify all the circumstances of the incident and find out the shortcomings and question those who are responsible in order to tackle the matter in the future," he said in remarks carried by QNA.

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