The Middle East may have some of the most opulent and extravagant buildings in the world but it also has some of the latest construction standards in terms of fire safety, often ignored in the rush to build.
The Villagio Qatar Mall is a classic example of opulence, its Venetian themes gives it a grand canal at its centre, 220 stores, 360 000 sqm of retail GFA, Marks and Spencer, Next and Lois Vuitton as well as an incredible footfall for the region (where malls are often near deserted due to oversupply) of 42,000 per day.
Yet this morning around 11.00am a major fire break out close to Entrance three. Reports from social media suggesting casualties were quickly dismissed however it is now confirmed that there were 19 deaths, including 13 children (including 3 triplets), 2 nursery supervisors and 2 firefighters.
Why was the causality rate so high. Looking at the mall plans you can immediately see a number of key design faults in terms of means of escape.
We know the fire broke out near gate 3 and two major stores were gutted. These were likely to be the Masimo and Zara stores flanking the entrance from the TV images.
The major source of casualties was the Gyampanzee children’s play area (B91 on the map) which despite being a high risk play area for children has no direct means of escape the nearest fire exist being over a ‘bridge’ over the ‘grand canal’ and out onto the service yard. Many would I imagine attempt to pass down the cramped alleys next to the canal where the direct means of escape would be directly to the source of the fire gate three and the better gate 4 being a long dogleg away. Smoke would have quickly filled the area. As an open plan mall there are no fire doors. The poor children didnt stand a chance.
Comparing to British Regulations – and Part E of the building regs has a special section for enclosed shopping centres with malls, you will see dozens of breaches. In particular I would stress E7.8
Every crèche provided within an enclosed shopping centre with a mall must be designed so that it is –
c. located adjacent to an external wall and has at least 2 exits, one of which must be directly to a place of safety.
No one seems to be owning up to be its architect, however whoever it was should deserve a jail sentence.
Update: We now learn there was no sprinklers or smoke alarms at the mall – incredible.