Fire breaks out at large Qatar mall under construction

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Firefighters battle blaze at $825-million mall near stadium where Qatar plans to host Fifa World Cup

Dubai: A fire broke out Saturday at an $825-million mall under construction near a stadium where Qatar plans to host some of the 2022 Fifa World Cup, authorities said.

There were no immediate reports of injuries, though the mall said some 14,000 labourers and staff had been evacuated.

Qatar’s Interior Ministry said on Twitter that firefighters were battling a blaze at a mall under construction near the Al Rayan Sports Club on the western outskirts of Doha, the country’s capital.

That’s where developers are building the Mall of Qatar, a massive shopping center under construction since 2012 that was scheduled to open later this year.

Video on social media showed a thick black cloud of smoke rising over the mall.

UrbaCon Trading & Contracting Co., the construction company building the mall, did not immediately answer a request for comment by email and a telephone message Saturday.

In a statement posted to Facebook, management at the Mall of Qatar said the fire began around 2.30pm.

“An investigation is being conducted and details will be provided once the investigation is complete,” the statement read. Mall management did not respond to a request for comment.

Just before 8pm, the Interior Ministry announced civil defense forces had extinguished the blaze, which caused no injuries. Government officials in Qatar, a small, peninsular country rich in natural gas and oil and home to a major US military installation, did not respond to a request for comment.

Mall of Qatar is planned to be some 500,000 square metres, and to be connected to the Doha Metro. Plans call for Qatar to renovate the nearby Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium to host World Cup matches.

A previous fire at a shopping mall was the deadliest disaster to strike Qatar in recent memory. The 2012 blaze at the high-end Villaggio shopping mall in Doha killed 19 people, many of them foreigners. The victims included 13 children. Most of those killed were at a daycare center inside the shopping mall, which opened in 2006 and houses an ice skating rink and Venice-style gondolas.

Investigators blamed faulty wiring for sparking the blaze, but cited a number of factors that contributed to its spread and the deaths. Five people were sentenced to prison in 2013 in connection with the fire, but an appeals court judge overturned those convictions last October.

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