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Friday, January 21, 2022

Roundup: Villaggio fire, day three


Day three after the Villaggio fire that killed 19 people, the investigation is stepping up, with the attorney general ordering the detention of some five people connected to the mall and Gympanzee last night. (Here’s Day 1 and Day 2’s live coverage) 

We’ll keep you posted as we learn more. We’ll also be updating this post with points of interest throughout the day.

UPDATE | Thursday, 12:33am

There was a relatively small fire in Souq Waqif tonight at around 11:30pm, which civil defense appeared to get under control quickly.

Although shops we called were entirely unaware of it, several photos were sent our way via Twitter:

Regular Doha News contributor Mohammed Al-Jufairi, who was at the Souq at the time, confirmed the news, adding that it damaged two back-alley shops:

Sedii Mohamed also share this photo with us:

UPDATE | 11:00pm

At some point today, Villaggio Mall updated its website with a black ribbon and a message of condolence for the victims of Monday’s fire.

UPDATE | 10:30pm

Egyptian media is reporting that the bodies of two children who died in the Villaggio fire have been flown home to be buried.

The victims are Yousef Shata, 3, and Evian Antonios, 2 years old.

UPDATE | 10:11pm

Fire victims

Here is our updated list of fire victims. We are missing two children’s names. Please help us if you can.


  • Hana Sharabati, 3 years old 
  • Omar Emraan, 18 months old, South Africa 
  • Isabel Vela, 7 years old, Spain 
  • Almudena, 7, Camilo, 5, and Alfonso, 2 years old, Travesedo (siblings), Spain
  • Lillie, Jackson and Willsher Weekes (triplets), 2 years old, New Zealand 
  • Zeinah Aouani, 2 years old, United States 
  • Yousef, 3 years old, France, Egypt


  • Mahmoud Haidar, Iran 
  • Hossam Chahboune, 22, Morocco 


  • Shameega Charles, 28, South Africa 
  • Maribel Orosco, Philippines 
  • Margie Yecyec, Philippines 
  • Julie Ann Soco, Philippines

UPDATE | 9:49pm:

AFP has spoken with two firefighters who described Monday’s chaotic scene.

Abdel Khaleq al-Huwari was among the first in the nursery after the fire died down:

He said he found his Moroccan colleague, Husam Shahboun, lying dead on the floor “holding two children in his arms.”

“The other (Iranian) firefighter was barely alive when we found him,” said Huwari. “We tried to save him but he died.”

Another firefighter, Amran Mohsen, said that all the children who were in the nursery at the time of the fire died. – ”five in the ambulance, three at the hospital and the rest right at the spot.”

UPDATE | 8:51pm:

Gympanzee permits

A source has provided Doha News with some of Gympanzee’s business documentation.

The documents, posted below, depict the following:

Page 1: The center’s commercial registration, issued by Qatar’s Ministry of Business and Trade (cont)

Page 2: A list of six “purpose of business” activities, including 1) Play room for Children’s Activity; 2) Area for Taekwandoo; 3) Trading of sports apparel; 4) Trading of soda and juice; 5) Trading of mineral water; and 6) Sale of children toys

Page 3: A permit from Rayyan’s municipality to operate at Villaggio Mall with the same activities listed previously (valid from 2008-2010; source says latest permit was in Gympanzee’s safe).

All of the documents are signed by Gympanzee owner Iman Al Kuwari and are the latest in what appears to be an organized campaign to defend her.

Earlier today, an email with seven talking points was sent to Doha News. It is being circulated by a relative of Kuwari’s and asks recipients to share the points with friends and family, but avoid social media. However, many people are copying and pasting the points directly onto Twitter.

On a separate note, several of our commenters have made a very salient point:

Whether Gympanzee was registered as a nursery or play center is irrelevant. Both are places where very young children are present in large numbers and therefore the standards and licensing for both categories should be the same.


UPDATE | 5:38pm:

We’ve rescheduled our community meeting to tomorrow (Thursday) from 6:30-8:30pm at the Intercontinental Hotel near Exhibition Roundabout. RSVP here.

UPDATE | 5:34pm:

The Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra is holding a free memorial concert at the Katara Opera House on Friday, June 1, at 7:30pm. Details here.

UPDATE | 5:31pm:

It appears some businesses are taking Monday’s tragedy very seriously:

UPDATE | 3:30pm: 

Kuwari’s relative speaks out

A close relative of Gympanzee owner Iman Al Kuwari has spoken to Doha News on condition of anonymity to address some of the questions being asked about her and the center.

He said Kuwari continues to be detained for questioning – but not arrested – along with four Villaggio executives.

He added that the reason Gympanzee was not licensed through the Ministry of Social Affairs is because it is not a nursery.

“It’s always been an activity center,” he said. “A nursery involves school. ..(this) is like a baby-sitting thing.”

In that regard, Gympanzee held all the commercial permits it needed, he said, including approval from the Civil Defense Department three weeks ago.

The relative also called attention to the various obstacles firefighters encountered during the rescue effort, including malfunctioning sprinkler systems, lack of emergency lighting and the unavailability of floor plans.

“We know there is an investigation going on and we don’t want to undermine it…(but) this is to give a full picture,” he said.

UPDATE: 2:57 pm

We’re rescheduling our community meeting to tomorrow (Thursday) at the Intercon, 6:30-8:30pm.

We’ll be teaming up with ILoveQatar.net to discuss the aftermath of the fire and whatever else is on your mind. Details to follow.

UPDATE |2:23 pm:

Al Watan has dug up some information about the permits Gympanzee held.

Gulf News provides a translation:

The daycare centre at Doha’s Villagio mall where 13 children and four staff were killed on Monday was licenced as a “centre for children’s amusement and to sell women’s garments.

Local Arabic daily Al Watan reported that its investigation discovered that the licence had been given by the business and trade ministry and that neither the social affairs ministry nor the Supreme Education Council, the ministries overseeing nurseries and kindergartens, granted the centre a permit.

UPDATE |2:13 pm

Qatar’s heir apparent has visited the families of those killed in the Villaggio fire, Abdullah Al Athbah, managing editor of Al Arab, has said, citing his own sources.

UPDATE: | 1:33 pm:

Qatar Living has posted a forum topic asking people to pay their tributes to the deceased:

Please leave your note or memory below. Please – this thread is not for discussion or blame – it is just as a means to remember those who have passed and perhaps provide a little solace to the families of those affected.

Several people are already posting moving comments. User Pride says:

Forgive me ‘cause I didn’t go to the vigil or mess today to show support. Forgive me for being coward no to face you, ‘cause I wouldn’t bare the pain. Forgive me to dare to feel your pain, ‘cause in truth I don’t know If I’d be strong enough. Please accept my words below and I hope somehow, someday you find the peace you probably are looking for…

Leave your remarks here.

UPDATE | 12:44 pm:

During one of last night’s vigils to honor the dead, Camilo Travesedo asked churchgoers not to worry anymore about what happened.

“If you want to help us (in our grief), please don’t cry anymore,” he said to wide applause, the Peninsula reported.

UPDATE | 12:29 pm:

Some of the teachers trapped inside Gympanzee during the fire made distress calls to loved ones, according to media reports.

Maribel Orosco, one of three Filipina teachers who died on Monday, called her colleague Cindy Dacanay, telling her that she saw smoke but decided to stay to protect the children, the Peninsula reports.

Filipino media is reporting that Julie Ann Soco called her husband in the Philippines and   insisted on staying with the children against his advice.

UPDATE | 11:11 am:

Criticism of Qatar media’s coverage of the fire and its aftermath have been swirling for days.

Ahmad Bin Abdullah Al Sulaiti, editor-in-chief of Arabic daily Al Watan, said that Qatar’s broadcast media was especially wanting.

“They should have been there to cover what was happening and providing an adequate coverage to reassure the people,” he said.

“They failed to do their job properly and were not there when the tragedy struck. The print media appears the next day, but the audio-visual media should have been there. I was at the site for about two hours and did not see a single correspondent or representative from the audio-visual media.”

Qatar TV’s managing director’s defense: “What happened is not a football match to be aired on TV.”

UPDATE | 11:04 am:

Yesterday, Doha News learned that many store owners were planning to put their employees on paid leave or transfer them to another shop.
But a large number of employees of the Villaggio’s 173 shops still fear the fate of their jobs, the Peninsula reports.

“I’m sure it will take a long time to re-open, but will our employers keep us paid without any income from the shop?” said a sales assistant at a leading outlet within the Villaggio mall.

UPDATE | 10:51 am:

First lady Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser expressed her condolences to the families of the Villaggio fire victims yesterday during a forum on the advancement of the Arabic language, QNA reports.

“May God bless their souls and may they rest in peace,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Emir has received condolences on the tragedy from several world leaders, including Russia, UAE, Bahrain, Oman and Turkey.

Credit: Photo by Omar Chatriwala

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