Fire Kills 13 Toddlers In Doha Shopping Mall

Thirteen toddlers are among 19 people dead after a fire ripped through a large shopping centre in Doha, the Qatari government has said.

Seven girls and six boys were killed after the blaze broke out at a day care centre at the Villaggio mall earlier today.

They were aged between one and three and were trapped in the day care centre for more than two hours, local journalists who attended an official news conference told Sky News.

All of the dead were foreigners, who included Europeans and Japanese people. One Spanish family is said to have lost three children.

The casualties also included four female teachers and two firefighters.

"There don't seem to have been any fire alarms or sprinklers at the mall," a relative of a two-year-old child who died in the fire told the Reuters news agency.

Thick black smoke was seen billowing from the building at the height of the fire, which broke out at about 11am local time. 

Some 17 people, including two children, were taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation. Many of those in the shopping centre when the alarm was raised were evacuated through the roof.

The flames were under control within hours. The cause of the fire is not known.

Brian Candy, a photographer who took pictures at the scene, told Sky News: "There were more emergency services than I've ever seen in my life in attendance... air ambulances coming and going.

"There was a lot of noise... noise of emergency services people shouting instructions, what sounded like women crying, wailing in fact. Truly, a very sad and disturbing sight."

The Italian-themed Villaggio, one of the biggest shopping centres in Qatar, opened in 2006 and has 220 stores as well as a funfair and ice-skating rink.

Many ex-patriates live in the oil-rich Gulf Arab state, which has one of the highest standards of living in the world.