Qatar Fire Victims’ Parents Seek Expert Help in Investigation

Jane and Martin Weekes, the New Zealand parents of triplets killed in a May 28 mall fire in Qatar, want outside experts brought in to help investigate the blaze.

The Qatar government should “seek the support from international fire and emergency experts to work alongside the team here to gather the facts,” they said in an e-mailed letter.

Their two-year-old triplets, Lillie, Jackson and Willsher, along with 10 other children, four teachers and two firefighters, were killed when the blaze broke out at Villaggio, the country’s largest mall.

The victims became trapped in a child care facility as smoke from the fire spread. Firefighters had to break a hole in the roof of the mall to reach victims, who came from countries including Spain, the Philippines, South Africa and Japan.

Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, the country’s minister of state for internal affairs, said at a May 28 press conference that the investigation would be handled internally.

The fire has raised questions about public safety in the Persian Gulf emirate, the richest country per capita in the world with a population that has more than doubled in the past decade.

The biggest exporter of liquefied gas, Qatar’s stature has grown in recent years after the country won the right to host the 2022 World Cup and its government supported uprisings in Syria and Libya.

Qatar’s public prosecutor ordered the detention of five people, including the mall’s owner, manager and the owner of the child care center, state-run Qatar News Agency said May 29.

The six-year-old Villaggio mall is designed to resemble an Italian village, complete with canals and gondolas as well as an amusement park, ice rink and cinema. The daycare facility was located in the middle of the mall, accessed through two narrow and winding hallways and up a flight stairs.

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