One of Qatar’s premier shopping destinations, Villaggio has reopened the fire-damaged portion of the mall 387 days after the May 28, 2012 blaze that killed 19 at the Gympanzee, a day care centre.
A Qatari court yesterday sentenced five people to jail terms for negligence that caused the tragedy which shook the country. Four received six-year jail terms, while the fifth received a five-year term.
As of yesterday afternoon, only two stores, Mango and Zara, were open for business at the stretch between Villaggio’s gates 3 and 4, with others still under renovation.
The boards of Gympanzee and that of the adjacent Nike outlet, where the fire was reportedly sparked from a short circuit in the electrical system, have vanished.
While a new store has replaced Nike, the slot where the alley leading to Gympanzee used to be, has been closed with large white panels which have the Villaggio logo painted on.
As evident from the name boards of the yet-to-be-opened stores, a number of new outlets have been added to either side of the stretch.
Villaggio, which remained shut for 115 days following the fire, had partially re-opened on 19 September 2012, except for the affected portion, which has been reopened now.
The closure of the stretch affected by the blaze had considerably disrupted the movement of shoppers’ inside the mall, as it cut off one of the two main arteries linking the food court, ice rink and the indoor game centre to the starting point of the ‘canal cruise circuit.’
A leisurely gondola cruise through the indoor canal, reminiscent of the Venetian Canals, is a unique attraction of Villaggio.
All those killed in the fire were expatriates - 13 children (six boys and seven girls), four teachers and two fire-fighters.
Among the children – aged between 18 months and seven years – were two siblings and a triplet. They, along with the teachers were trapped on the first floor of the day care centre when the stairs gave way and succumbed to smoke inhalation.
The deceased fire-fighters were the first rescue personnel to enter Gympanzee after breaking in through the roof.
A view of the re-opened stretch of the Villaggio mall. PICTURE: Jayan Orma
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