Two South Africans die in Qatar fire
A teacher and a toddler from the Cape have died in a fire in Doha, Qatar, which claimed 19 lives, according to news reports
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, originally from Mitchells Plain, also died in the fire.
Shameega's father Faiek Charles told Radio 702 she would be buried there today. "What they told me is that they have positively identified her body and they let me know last night. They can have the funeral over there. We have given them permission to do that".
Shameega celebrated her 29th birthday on Saturday, and her family had all gathered in their Mitchell’s Plain home to celebrate with her via Skype.
But her father said little did they know it would be her last.
"It was very happy. We normally Skype with her. We wished her happy birthday."
The family of the 15-month-old boy is also finalising funeral arrangements.
Umar's grandfather Goosain Emeran said that they were planning a memorial service for the toddler in Cape Town today.
"The family are still in shock. My heart goes out to them."
The fire that broke out in one of the country’s fanciest shopping malls has raised questions about building safety in the booming Gulf state.
At least some of the victims died as rescuers struggled to reach the child care centre.
“We tried our best, but when we got there, the children were trapped inside. We are very sorry for what happened. We tried as much as we could to save these people,” Qatar’s Minister of State for Interior Affairs, Sheik Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani, told reporters in Doha.
Four of the children killed were Spanish citizens living in the small Arab emirate, the Spanish Foreign Ministry said.
A 3-year-old French child was also among the victims.
And 2-year-old New Zealand triplets, Lillie, Jackson and Willsher Weekes, were among the victims.
“Our daughter rang. What can you say? It’s absolutely devastating,” the children’s grandmother, Jo Turner, told Fairfax Media. “They were everything to her. She was a great mum.”
Four teachers and two civil defence officials were among the dead, the Qatari ministry said on its official Twitter page.
At least three of the nursery teachers were from the Philippines and died of smoke inhalation.
Another 17 people were injured, including four children, according to authorities.
Most of those hurt were rescuers responding to the blaze.
Witnesses earlier reported thick black smoke pouring from the ritzy mall around midday Monday. Amateur photos and videos posted online showed firefighters rescuing victims by climbing on the roof.
The Interior Ministry said the fire was extinguished hours later.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Thick smoke and heat hindered rescue efforts, as did a lack of floor plans and malfunctioning sprinkler systems, the ministry said on Twitter.
Sheik Abdullah said all buildings in the country abide by safety requirements, but a special committee will nonetheless be set up to monitor building safety standards.
The Villaggio opened in 2006 and is one of Qatar’s most popular shopping and amusement destinations. It includes big name stores, an ice skating rink, theme park, movie theatre and indoor Venice-style gondola rides.