A fire erupted in a nursery in a shopping mall in Qatar's capital city, Doha, late Monday morning, killing 19 people, at least 13 of them children, a government official said.
The fatalities at the Villaggio shopping mall included seven girls and six boys, four teachers and two members of the civil defense, said the minister of state for interior affairs, Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, in a posting on the ministry's Facebook page.
Another 17 people were injured, four of them children, he said. Most of the other injured are civil defense firefighters, he said
A spokeswoman for Spain's Foreign Ministry said four of the dead were Spanish nationals.
A collapsed ceiling, heavy smoke and high temperatures complicated the firefighters' efforts, an official told Qatar TV. "So many dangers obstructed us," he said.
Christine Wigton, an American who moved to Doha last year, told CNN she was walking in the mall planning to buy some takeout shortly after 11 a.m. when she heard a buzzing noise. "As I walked back to where I had parked and heard a buzzer, not very loud, and a little bit of smoke, it looked like a store had had a small fire," she said.
"When I got a little bit closer I realized the smoke was just increasing and people were still shopping. And the smoke kept getting heavier and heavier."
Elementary school-age children were eating at some of the restaurants and no one was trying to escape, she said. "There were no sprinklers and there was nothing that would tell somebody that something was wrong."
Finally, the smoke became "too much, and I put my cardigan around my mouth" and went out to the parking lot. "My throat was burning," she said.
The mall advertises itself as "the newest and the largest entertainment center in Doha," with gondola rides, a 13-screen movie theater, a theme park, a skating rink, an artificial sky, restaurants and a bowling alley.