Experts demand safety review after deadly blaze

Blaze at Qatar mall results in renewed calls for greater fire safety

Qatar Civil Defense personnel work in the aftermath of the blaze (source: MOI).
Qatar Civil Defense personnel work in the aftermath of the blaze (source: MOI).

Fire security experts are calling for building managers in the region to redouble their safety efforts in the wake of a deadly blaze at a Qatar mall that left 19 dead.

Thirteen young children including two-year old triplets died in the fire, which broke out in a nursery at Doha's Villaggio Mall.

While the cause of the blaze is yet to be established, the Qatari Ministry of Interior acknowledged a lack of floor plans for the centre and malfunctioning sprinkler systems had obstructed rescue efforts.

One expert believes that poor implementation of fire safety codes is not uncommon across the region, despite a reasonably high standard of safety regulations.

“I don’t believe the [fire and life safety] codes are lacking, I think it’s the application of the codes that is the problem,” said Faimeen Shah, manager of fire safety engineering at Exova, in Dubai.

“The answer is to improve the practices. You have the same codes in other parts of the world, but you don’t get these sorts of fires or fatalities."

He added: “It’s not just sprinklers, it is stairs, doors, direction of door openings, whether doors are locked, where you have access controls and so on."

Another expert, who asked not to be named, said a lack of maintenance in the Gulf is also prevalent.

“Some of the systems you’re supposed to test every month or every two weeks, but over here they do it every three months. And if you have a fault in one of the systems they don’t fix it straight away. I assume this is because there are no heavy fines from the authorities for these issues, and they don’t have the insurance companies enforcing these requirements.”

He added: “They really need people who understand the regulations and take seriously the safety issues. They don’t really care so much about it. They only ever care about getting past the authorities, and owners don’t want to spend a lot of money to fix problems.”

This story first appeared on ArabianBusiness.com. Villaggio Mall did not respond to Arabian Business' request for comment.

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