With reporting from Riham Sheble
A lower criminal court in Doha convened this morning to hear two witnesses discuss the events leading to a gas explosion in February that killed 11 people and injured 42 others.
Four men are on trial for what happened, and all have plead not guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter, involuntary/accidental harm and the damaging of property belonging to others. They are:
- A foreman for Woqod (an Indian expat);
- A supervisor for the Qatar Gas Group (an expat from Egypt);
- And two Turkish employees who worked for Istanbul Restaurant, where the blast originated.
The men were initially jailed after the blast, but are now free pending the verdict. It is unclear if they have returned to work.
The two people who testified today both worked for the Qatar Gas Group, a Woqod contractor with no relation to the state-backed liquified natural gas (LNG) producer.
They spoke about the company’s role in overhauling Istanbul Restaurant’s gas lines so that it would be up to Civil Defense standards, which became stricter following the deadly 2012 Villaggio mall fire.
The Qatar Gas Group was also tasked with outfitting the restaurant with safety precautions, such as an alarm that goes off in the event of a gas leak.
The work was apparently carried out from August 2013 to December 2013. Following a preliminary inspection by Woqod that month, Qatar Gas Group employees said they made requested changes and completed their work by mid-January 2014.
But the witnesses added that they did not know if Woqod conducted any additional inspections to the eatery before it opened, as they did not hear from the company after making the changes.
The communication breakdown between the two companies may have contributed to the blast, which took place inside of a petrol station complex in Duhail (near Landmark Mall) on Feb. 27.
Istanbul Restaurant was closed and vacant at the time of the accident, and the majority of those killed and injured were eating at the nearby Tasty eatery.
According to a government investigation, the explosion was caused by a pizza oven whose gas had been left on at Istanbul restaurant. The liquified petroleum gas (LPG) was apparently ignited by a spark from a nearby refrigerator inside the eatery.
Because the court will break for the summer soon, it has adjourned the trail until October. During that month, two hearings will take place on Oct. 22 and Oct, 29 so that the more than dozen remaining witnesses can testify.
Among those expected to be heard are representatives of the restaurant and Woqod.
The judge also said that between now and October, the court will get in touch with the injured, asking them to present medical certificates about their physical state.