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Villaggio Fire And The Year After: A Timeline

Villaggio Fire And The Year After: A Timeline

On the morning of May 28 last year, 13 children left their homes for just another day at the nursery. Hours later, nine sets of frenzied parents were outside the Villaggio Mall and then at HMC, coming to grips with what would be the worst day of their lives.

The fire at Villaggio claimed 19 lives including 13 children, four nursery staff and two civil defence personnel. The case came up in court 14 times including several postponements; the verdict is expected on June 20.

In the aftermath, several questions have risen: on safety, jurisprudence, transparency, disaster-preparedness and the ineffectiveness of local media in covering the issue. Many of the questions still remain answered.

Though Villaggio was closed for 115 days, it was reopened without any public statement on action taken.

Court proceedings were covered only by The Peninsula and DohaNews locally, while the other newspapers showed only a token interest.

With the June 20 verdict, the victims might find some closure. However, safety standards in Qatar will continue to be a concern.

JustHere contacted the attorney of the victims, but he didn’t want to comment until the verdict was out. We spoke to a mother of a three-year-old child who died in the fire who says the incident is still fresh in her mind. “To lose a child is the worst thing that can happen to a parent. I want the authorities to assure us that such an incident doesn’t happen again. I don’t want other families to meet with the same tragedy.”

Here’s a timeline of the events that transpired through the year the last 12 months.

28 May, 2012
A fire breaks out at around 11 am. According to Ministry of Interior, the fire started from Gympanzee—a children’s play area. The situation was brought under control by 1.30 pm but 19 lives were lost in this tragedy.
Click here for more.

Click here to view an animated illustration of how the fire broke out.

29 May, 2012
Qatar issues arrest orders for the owner of the mall as well as other officials, including the director of safety on charges of safety lapses at the mall. The court also ordered the detention of Gympanzee owner, Iman Al-Kuwari, who happens to be the daughter of Minister of Arts and Culture HE Dr Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari.
Click here for more info.

31 May, 2012
Here’s a documentary that a group of students, mainly from Northwestern University, made within 52 hours of the fire incident.

13 June, 2012
Initial investigations carried out by the Qatar Special Higher Committee indicate that the fire started due to an electrical fault at the Nike store, spreading out to the nearby Gympanzee day centre. The committee also said that the mall and its staff were ill-equipped to handle an emergency of this extent.
Click here for more info.

29 June, 2012
A month has passed. Residents pay tribute to their lost loved ones at a gathering at Villaggio’s car park.
Click here for more info.

10 September, 2012
Two of the accused in the fire care fail to appear in the first court hearing. Attempts to reach them were unsuccessful as their ‘phones were switched off’. The hearing is postponed until October.
Click here for more info.

20 September, 2012
Villaggio mall reopens partially for the first time after the incident. However, the area between Gate 3 and 4 remain closed.
Click here for more info.

12 October, 2012
The Villaggio fire case hearing is postponed to October 23 for the second time as two of the accused again don’t show up.
Click here for more info.

13 October, 2012
One of the Gondolania ride suffers a technical malfunction with half a dozen children stuck onboard for 30 minutes. No injuries reported. Parents raise concern over the mall’s safety precautions.
Click here for more info.

23 October, 2012
The case hearing is adjourned for the third time till November 13 as one of the accussed –Al-Kuwari – fails to appear in court.
Click here for more info.

13 November, 2012
It’s the fourth time in a row that Al-Kuwari stays away from court. Families of victims are left disappointed. The court gives her an ultimatum of November 29 to show up after which she loses the chance to defend herself at court.
Click here for more info.

29 November, 2012
The owners of the  Gympanzee nursery show up. However, the court again adjourns the trial to December 19 as ‘inheritance documents and power of attorney handed by the relatives of the victims were not found in order’, reports The Peninsula.
Click here for more info.

19 December, 2012
The trial eventually gets a kickstart as witnesses testified at the court, mostly pointing at the mall’s mismanagement.  Due to time constrains, the trial would resume on January 3, 2013.
Click here for more info.

3 January, 2013
The hearing resumes. Gympanzee officials are questioned over their commercial license to operate as a nursery. Parents of the children who perished in the fire are put off by the questions posed to them, reports Doha News. The remaining witnesses will testify on January 23.
Click here for more info.

23 January, 2013
The husband of a teacher at the Gympanzee nursery who died in the fire recounts the harrowing experience in court. Rest of the witnesses to testify on January 30.
Click here for more info.

30 January, 2013
The court rejects plea of the defence lawyer of the Gympanzee owners to exempt his clients from attending court proceedings. The next hearing is scheduled for February 7.
Click here for more info.

7 February, 2013
The court once again questions the credentials of the Gympanzee nursery to operate as a day care centre.
Click here for more info.

21 March 2013
The father of the New Zealand triplets killed in the fire pleads for an ‘independent and transparent enquiry’ into the Villaggio fire case. Meanwhile, in the past weeks, all witnesses finished giving evidence at the hearing and a verdict is said to be reached in the next two months.
Click here for more info.

3 April, 2013
Another fire breaks out at Villaggio mall due to a malfunctioning AC unit. Though no injuries were reported, questions were once again raised over fire safety standards in the country.
Click here for more info.

5 April, 2013
The court closes all arguments after 14 trials and the verdict will be announced on June 20.
Click here for more info.

28 May, 2013
We mark the one-year anniversary of the Villaggio mall fire.
Doha Mums is organising a remembrance at the Aspire Park at 4.30pm. Click here for more info.

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