An Indian community organization is appealing for additional financial support for the families of three men killed in an explosion at a Turkish restaurant near Landmark Mall in February.
Abdul Saleem Pulikka, Mohammed Riyas and Zakaria Padinjare Anakandi, all from the Kerala region of southern India, were among 11 people who died in the blast in Duhail. Five others from Indian were killed, as well as four Nepalis and two Filipinos.
Qatar officials said the accident was was caused by leaking liquid petroleum gas (LPG) from a pizza oven at the restaurant.
All three men had arrived in Doha six months before the incident, and worked at Tea Time, a shop next door to the Istanbul restaurant, where the blast originated. Though the Turkish eatery was empty, Tea Time had several people inside.
It sustained significant damage in the explosion, and seven out of 10 employees on shift at the cafe died.
The three Keralites were married with children, and working in Qatar to support their families back home, according to officials from the Doha branch of the KMCC (Kerala Muslim Cultural Center).
Pulikka, 35, hailed from the Malappuram district of Kerala and was an only child. He has a three-year-old daughter, a 20-year old wife, and also supported both his parents.
Anakandi, 37, hailed from the Calicut district. He leaves behind a 34-year-old wife, a 10-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son, as well as his mother, who he also supported financially. He was also the family’s only breadwinner.
Riyas, 33, also came from Calicut. He is survived by his 31-year-old wife and two children – a seven-year-old son and five-year-old daughter – as well as his mother. He had recently taken out a loan to complete the construction of his house.
Immediately after the deaths were announced, KMCC member Kunnumal Hamza said he traveled to meet the victims’ families himself. Speaking to Doha News, he said:
“I visited two of the families – they are very very poor. Both families had started the construction of a house, but they’re not finished yet, and they have two children, each family…so all four of them are orphans now. So that’s why we decided to do something from our side, from our committee.”
Last week, 60 Doha KMCC members got together and donated QR18,500 to support the victims’ families. Although this was an encouraging start, Hamza said that he would like to raise four times that amount to give each family enough funds to support itself.
To this end, the KMCC will gather again on April 24th to invite more contributions, which will then be managed and distributed by KMCC leaders in Kerala.
Any funds donated will be an “additional benefit,” Hamza said, to add to a QR6,000 per family donation already made by the Qatari government to the families, and an initial compensation payment of QR30,000 per family from the owner of Tea Time.
Speaking to the Gulf Times after the blast, the Indian Embassy heavily criticized this payment from the owner, saying that it was “far from enough” to help the families recover from the loss of their sole bread winners.
The embassy told the newspaper that it planned to appeal “at the appropriate levels” for this amount to be increased, citing Qatari labor law, which states that every family of an employee who dies at work is entitled to insurance compensation of QR200,000. It’s understood, however, that these men were not insured by their employer.
Meanwhile, Qatar’s prosecutor’s office has referred the gas blast investigation results to the criminal court, where the Turkish restaurant operator may be facing charges over the deaths.
Hamza told Doha News that whether further compensation was granted, his community group felt bound to help the families out of their plight.
“It is my duty to support their families, my community and my friends together. That’s the only aim. If there is any support needed from our side, I am ready to do that. But the other side, the legal side, I don’t know exactly what will happen. But we have to do our duty, that’s it.”
Anyone wishing to help the families of the victims can contact Kunnumal Hamza on 5552-5991.
Note: This article has been updated to reflect the ages of the deceased and their children. It also has been corrected to state that compensation was paid to the families by Tea Time, and not Istanbul Restaurant.