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A fire broke out at one of Doha’s premier shopping destinations, Villagio Mall, killing 19 people. All 19 killed in the inferno were foreigners, including the two fire fighters as well as 13 children and four teachers at a nursery located inside the mall.

 

The authorities have ordered that the mall's owner and four of its senior staff be arrested according to local press reports, coming out of the heavily censored country. Qatari Attorney General Ali bin Futeis Al-Merri "ordered the arrest of the Villagio mall owner... its manager and its deputy manager," the official QNA news agency reported.  It said that arrest warrants had also been issued for the mall's deputy director of security and for the owner of the Gympanzee nursery where the children and teachers died.

 

The reports said rescue teams were not informed of the existence of a nursery in the mall "until half an hour after" they arrived on the scene.

 

Crown Prince Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani has set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the tragedy amid mounting allegations of negligence. Parents of some of a triplet who died in the fire called for an independent international enquiry.

 

May 27, 2012

 

 

Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk


 

The fire in Doha comes at a time when the country is undergoing its largest ever construction boom in preparation for the hosting of the FIFA 2022 World Cup. The devastating fire at Doha's most iconic shopping centre has tested the ability of the country and its services to absorb and run such massive level of transformation. It was generally felt that the rapid pace of development coupled with cronyism in, for example, expediting building, has led to sub-standard construction.

 

It was felt that such massive fire was a disaster waiting to happen. Despite the rapid response of the authorities to make arrests, the magnitude of the fire will likely have a transformative impact on the construction industry. As caution spread, much slower paces of construction will inevitably have an adverse impact on profit margins, particularly of construction-related businesses, which is one of the main drivers of the Qatari economy. The country will also be placed under further international scrutiny as to its ability to cope with the construction required for FIFA 2022.

 

There will therefore be an overall increase of economic risk level as a result of the fire.