A CAPITAL teacher has spoken of her lucky escape from a shopping centre blaze in Qatar that claimed the lives of 19 people.
Hazel Amanda, a teacher from Edinburgh, described the chaotic scenes inside the Villagio complex and told how she escaped by being close to an exit.
She said: “I was in Pizza Express in the mall with 17 children, aged three to four. We were making pizzas as part of a school trip.
“The first we knew of the fire was when we saw the smoke. There were fire alarms going off in the building, but they were barely audible.
“They were not sounding in the individual shops, they were so quiet. We were so lucky to be near the exit.”
Ms Amanda said that the emergency services did not turn up until after all of her group were safely out of the building and the building was well alight.
“Any idea the emergency services turned up a minute after the call about the fire was made is nonsense.
“They arrived after we were all safely outside and the fire was well under way.”
The fire at the Doha shopping centre killed 13 children, officials said last night.
The young victims were said to be from France, Spain, Japan, the Philippines and Benin, among other countries. A set of triplets from New Zealand are understood to be among the children who died.
Four teachers and two civil defence officials were also among the dead. Another 17 people were injured, mostly rescuers. The cause of the fire is under investigation, though media reports said it broke out at a childcare area in the Villaggio Mall.
A blanket of smoke and heat hindered rescue efforts as did a lack of floor plans and malfunctioning sprinkler system, the Qatari government said.
At least some of the victims died as rescuers struggled to reach the child care centre, according to Qatar’s interior affairs minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser al-Thani. He said: “We tried our best, but when we got there, the children were trapped inside. We are very sorry for what happened.
“We tried as much as we could to save these people.”
The tragedy is expected to raise questions about building safety in the booming Gulf state.
The Villaggio complex opened in 2006 and is one of Qatar’s most popular shopping and amusement destinations.
Amateur photos and videos posted online showed firefighters rescuing victims by climbing on the roof.