Children from New Zealand, Japan and the Philippines are believed to be among 19 people who died after a fire tore through a nursery in a shopping centre in the Qatari capital, Doha.
The blaze left "19 dead, including 13 children, among them seven girls and six boys, in addition to four female teachers,and two members of the cevil defence in the fire at the capital's main Villagio mall ,the Qatari interior ministry said.
Four Spanish children and a French child were also among those killed, with others from Japan, the Philippines and Benin according to reports.New Zealand children are understood to be the two-year-old triplets.
Firefighters had to break through the roof to get to trapped children after a staircase to the first-floor nursery collapsed.
The fire trapped more than 20 children and staff members in the mall, one of the most popular shopping and recreational complexes in the small gulf state.
Witnesses earlier reported thick black smoke pouring from the ritzy mall around midday. Amateur photos and videos posted online showed firefighters rescuing victims by climbing on the roof. Ambulances and police vehicles blocked entry to the complex.
New Zealand journalist Tarek Basley, who lives 1km from the mall in Doha, was in another part of the mall with his children when the fire broke out.
Basley said the daycare area was a casual drop-in centre.
"I believe the problem was that once the fire took in the area near the nursery, there was no way to actually escape.''
Both exits were blocked by smoke, he said.
There are reports of sprinkler system malfunctions, a false alarm the day before and floor plans not available for emergency services. Dense smoke inside the mall combined with the fierce temperature from the flames made reaching the trapped children very difficult, a representative of the civil defence told a news conference.