UAE feels the pain of deaths in Qatar mall tragedy

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Tears flow unchecked as parents, friends and well-wishers come to grips with the horror that has engulfed families in Doha in wake of yesterday’s Villaggio Mall tragedy.

With 13 children and five adults ­ – including two firefighters – perishing in the blaze that engulfed the Gympanzee childcare centre in the mall in the Qatari capital, many UAE residents are taking the loss personally, along with voicing concerns over the safety of their young ones in shopping premises.

As families and friends gather today for a memorial at 5pm in Aspire Park, Doha, Emirati parent, Huda Ahmed pleads to mall authorities to think beyond the economics.

“Money isn’t everything. You can’t put a price on a life of a child. Please remember that the next time you are thinking about investing in safety measures in your million-dirham mall.”

Caroline Green took to micro blogging site Twitter to say: “The awful events in Doha truly feel quite personal. All expats in the region must feel this way.”

Speaking to Emirates 24|7, Dubai resident and mother of two, Amy Hastings said: “I haven’t stopped crying since I heard of the deaths of all those innocent children in Doha.

“I used to frequent the Villaggio Mall when I lived there; my first child was born in the city.
She added: “But what angers me are the reports that the mall didn’t have fire exits clearly marked, even on the plans for the firefighters to get in. Someone who was at the mall during the tragedy said the alarms could barely be heard or the sprinklers not functioning well.”

Hastings asked what others have also been uttering since last night: “The tragedy could have occurred with any one of us, so how do we keep our children safe?”

Play areas in malls are often buzzing with children as many parents follow the practice of leaving their young ones to entertain themselves in the gated grounds while they head off to shop.

“I have always felt safe leaving my kids to play in the ballpark in the mall, under ample supervision, while I run around the mall for a few errands,” said Meenakshi Bhatia, a mother of two in Dubai.

“But after the tragedy in Doha, I can’t even fathom leaving my kids behind anywhere.”

“What if what happened at the Villaggio Mall happened here? The horror is too much to even bear.”

Fahima Karam, a Sharjah expat and mother of one said: “I have also left my child in these play areas in the mall, content in the knowledge that he is protected because the enclosure gates cannot be opened by young kids.

“But now I think, what if this happened here and the kids couldn’t open the gates to save themselves?”

Kristy, an Australian expat and blogger living in Doha took online to write on her blog, ‘4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle’: “…When I was choosing child care my criteria was pretty standard. I wanted it to be clean, I wanted good staff, great facilities, fun activities, and most of all I wanted the first little traveller to enjoy it.

“These are the things I didn’t check for.

“I didn’t ask to see the emergency evacuation procedure. I didn’t ask if the staff were trained in the event of a fire, and I didn’t ever once consider to check the exits or stairwells.

“I just assumed that of course they were trained, of course they knew what to do!

“I didn’t once consider that I would find myself racing to that mall pleading to get inside to find my baby girl. For that is the unthinkable, the unimaginable.” 

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