Sprinklers failed in Doha mall fire

By Kieran Campbell

The last picture of the Weekes triplets shows Winkie (left), Jackson and Lillie at the daycare in the Doha mall hours before the deadly inferno. Photo / Supplied
The last picture of the Weekes triplets shows Winkie (left), Jackson and Lillie at the daycare in the Doha mall hours before the deadly inferno. Photo / Supplied

Sprinklers in a Doha mall could have stopped the smoke that claimed the lives of 19 people including young New Zealand triplets, a court has heard.

A trial in a Qatari court to decide responsibility for the fatal May fire has heard overnight (NZT) that the Villaggio mall sprinkler system failed.

The court heard sprinklers that should have stopped the smoke "didn't appear to be functioning" and mall officials had not responded to requests from the fire alarm and sprinkler system companies to perform "much-needed maintenance on the mall equipment", Doha News said.

Two-year-old New Zealand triplets Lillie, Jackson and Willsher Weekes were among the 13 children who died in the fire.

Doha News reported that the court heard evidence that mall officials had been repeatedly fined for using highly flammable paint, which caused the May 28 fire "to spread quickly".

A fire officer testifying at the trial said the flammable paint, coupled with smouldering clothes from a Nike store, was the cause of heavy smoke that spread to the nearby play area, asphyxiating the children, four teachers and two firefighters who were trying to save them.

The defence lawyer for the mall asked whether the maintenance companies and the childcare centre where the deaths occurred had met their responsibilities.

Civil Defence admitted that the firefighters at the scene were "not necessarily properly trained to handle the fire", Doha News said.

The trial, which is expected to hear evidence from at least 10 people, will resume on January 3.

The hearing has previously been postponed because all defendants failed to front the court.

- APNZ

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