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Doha, Qatar - Investigators in Qatar have opened a state-ordered probe into a mall fire that killed 19 people, including 13 children, at a daycare centre catering to the Gulf nation's expatriate communities.
The inquest began on Tuesday amid questions by Qatari commentators and others about permitting such child care centres in commercial buildings.
Rescue crews had to hack through the roof of the vast Villaggio mall on Monday to reach the child care facility.
Among the victims were two-year-old New Zealand triplets, four children from Spain and a 15-month-old toddler from South Africa.
Another South African - Shameega Charles, a 29-year-old teacher from Mitchells Plain in Cape Town - was one of four teachers who died.
Earlier on Tuesday the South African international relations department confirmed the two deaths.
“The two (South Africans were) a female teacher who worked at the mall’s day care centre and a ... toddler who was at the day care centre,” said spokesman Nelson Kgwete in a statement.
"The South African government would like to express its heartfelt condolences to the government and people of Qatar, and especially the families of the deceased...,” Kgwete said.
According to the Cape Argus, Charles’s family could not be reached on Tuesday morning. However, online tributes and condolences poured in on social networks.
“I’m still at a loss for words,” reads a blog post from a friend who identified himself as PJ “I can’t believe someone that I have never seen without a beautiful smile on her face is gone for good.
“They say the good die young and Shameega, you were as good as they come. I just pray your son and your mom have the strength to carry on without you.”
Moeneeb Emeran, father of 15-month-old Umar, who died in the fire told the Cape Argus in a brief telephone interview early on Tuesday that he and other family members were at the mortuary in Doha trying to get the bodies of Umar and Charles released.
Emeran, who is from the Bo-Kaap, said he was confident that the bodies would be released, but there was a problem because Charles’s passport had been destroyed in the fire.
He said they had not yet received news about the cause of the blaze.
Emeran told the Cape Argus that his family was coping under the difficult circumstances and were receiving support from the SA embassy in Doha.
Earlier on Tuesday a Cape Times report quoted the father as saying: ”My 18-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter are pretty cut up about it. They are not taking it well. The younger ones, 11 and 10, are immature and haven’t absorbed it yet.
“I’m holding up well, but it is very tough having to identify the body. My wife, on the other hand, is not taking it well. She carried him for nine months and spent a lot of time with Umar.”
Umar had been at the Gympanzee nursery on and off for about 20 days.
According to the Cape Times, Emeran described his son as compassionate and said he would miss his tantrums. The toddler loved hugging his mother.
“One minute he was hugging my wife, the next he is throwing his dummy or bottle on the ground.
“He was fantastic. He was naughty, but everybody loved him.”
Residents have described the fire as Qatar’s greatest tragedy in recent years.
Of the 17 people injured, 13 remained in the hospital on Monday night.
The Qatari health minister said suffocation due to smoke inhalation caused the deaths.
Thick smoke and heat and malfunctioning sprinkler systems severely inhibited rescue efforts.
Firefighters eventually had to go in through the roof, officials said, adding that rescue teams had not been initially alerted to the fact that many of those trapped inside were children.
“We tried our best, but when we got there, the children were trapped inside. We are sorry for what happened. We tried as much as we could to save these people,” the minister of state said. - IOL