Officials in Qatar are requiring commercial and public facilities to increase safety measures after their investigation into a May 28th fire in a Doha mall that killed 19 people, including 13 children.
The fire first started inside a shop in Doha's Villagio Mall and flames quickly spread to a nearby day-care.
Following the tragedy, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Qatar's crown prince, formed a committee to investigate the causes of the fire. It found the fire was not premeditated and occurred because of an electrical malfunction inside one of the shops.
According to the committee's report, released Wednesday (June 13th), fire-fighters arrived promptly at the mall but did not know there was a day-care inside until at least half an hour after the fire started.
The day-care did not have a license from the country's Ministry of Social Affairs and did not meet the safety conditions required for day-care centres. Also, the Villagio Mall did not have procedures in place to deal with such an incident, according to the report.
"It was not connected to an early fire alarm system," the report said. "There was weak co-ordination with relevant government authorities that are responsible for ensuring public safety in addition to gaps in safety requirements and fire-fighting."
The committee also warned that there are several public buildings in Qatar that are still operating but are not in compliance with necessary safety measures.
The crown prince told Qatar's cabinet to review the report's recommendations, saying they should "be examined and implemented as soon as possible".
One of its main recommendations is "to re-evaluate the lists that regulate day-cares" and create a list of all buildings and facilities that are in violation of the law.
The Interior Ministry's directorate general of civil defence also called on all institutions to follow public safety requirements regarding fires.
Such requirements include maintaining alarm systems, providing ventilation, fire extinguishers and emergency exits, and training security staff on evacuation plans. Civil defence officials will conduct routine and surprise inspections to guarantee building safety, the directorate general said in a statement.
Ibrahim al-Rayyes, a consultant for a Doha insurance company, said that after the accident, his company inspected safety conditions in several commercial complexes.
"Unfortunately, many of those commercial complexes have been hugely negligent, but the tragedy allowed everyone to closely and effectively reassess all safety and security measures," he said.
Al- Rayyes said most accidents could be avoided if there is a proper review of safety and security measures.
"Companies that operate safety and security systems recommend conducting an actual drill every six months, but only a few of the complexes actually do that," he said.
Hamad bin Salman, an engineering consultant for a Doha contracting company, said many buildings were built before official orders made it mandatory a few years ago to ensure safety and security measures in any new building.
"The fire led to a re-consideration of priorities, especially in light of increasing negligence," he said. "Drills were not being performed at least once a year and the safety measures were not being reviewed."
Bin Salman said there is a need for effective alarm systems to be installed inside large commercial complexes, which would not be linked to the complexes' control rooms but directly to civil defence units near these buildings.
Meanwhile, some residents said they feared visiting malls after the accident.
"The fire was horrific and we are now afraid of frequenting malls. I refused to go into one for a whole week," said Sally al-Tayyeb, an Egyptian mother of three living in Qatar.
Al-Tayyeb said the fire was a result of negligence.
"Only two days before the fire I was at the Villagio Mall, and everything was calm and beautiful," she said. "I could not have imagined that such a big fire could happen there."