19 expats, including 13 kids, die in blaze at Qatar's top mall

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At least 19 foreign nationals, including 13 children, were killed in a fire that ripped through an upscale shopping mall in Qatar on Monday, the country's interior ministry said. 

The children were from New Zealand, Spain, Japan, the Philippines, and Benin, among other countries. A Spanish diplomatic source in Madrid told Reuters that four of the dead children were Spanish. 

It was not immediately clear what caused the blaze, which media reports said broke out at a childcare area at the Villagio Mall in Doha's west.  

Qatar's interior ministry only confirmed that the fire had started somewhere between Gates 3 and 4 in the mall and that an investigation was under way. 

Smoke was seen billowing from the mall, which was evacuated. Ambulances and police vehicles blocked entry into the shopping complex. 

A ministry official told journalists that none of the dead were Qataris. Four of the dead adults were teachers and the other two were civil defence personnel, the official said. Seventeen people were wounded, including four children, the official said. 

Many expatriates live in Qatar, a gas- and oil-rich Gulf Arab state with one of the highest standards of living in the world. 

The Villaggio opened in 2006 and is one of Qatar's most popular shopping and amusement destinations. It includes an ice skating rink and indoor Venice-style gondola rides.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

New construction projects such as the Villaggio have transformed the face of Doha in recent years, as the country benefits from a hydrocarbon boom. The Opec member state is the world's largest exporter of liquefied natural gas.

Qatar won the right to host soccer's 2022 World Cup a year and a half ago.

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