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Help me, Filipina killed in Qatar fire pleaded with aunt in Philippines

Smoke rises above the Villaggio Mall, in Doha's west end, as a fire took hold of the upscale mall in the Qatari capital of Doha Monday May 28, 2012. Qatar's Interior Ministry said 13 children were among 19 people killed in a fire that broke out at one of the Gulf state's fanciest shopping mall on Monday. The Villaggio opened in 2006 and is one of Qatar's most popular shopping and amusement destinations. It includes an ice skating rink and indoor Venice-style gondola rides. AP/Osama Faisal

Frantic as the flames spread in a mall fire that killed 19 people in Doha, Qatar, Filipino nursery school teacher Julie Ann Soco made one final call on her cell phone. “Help me, help me, I’m going to die,” she pleaded with her aunt in the Philippines.

There was nothing the aunt could do.

Luzviminda Soco told The Associated Press on Thursday that she did not understand what the problem was and asked her niece to stop crying. The line was cut shortly after. Neither she nor Julie Ann’s mother, a caregiver in Egypt, was able to reach her again.

Julie Ann, 25, and two other Filipino teachers were among the dead in Monday’s fire at the Villaggio, the Gulf nation’s biggest mall. Thirteen children at the Gympanzee Nursery School, a daycare center in the mall where Soco and the others worked, were also killed.

Qatar has issued arrest orders for the owner of the fire-ravaged mall and four others as investigations widened into possible safety lapses during a blaze.

The official Qatar News Agency said Attorney General Ali bin Feitais al-Marri also ordered the detention of the owner of the child care facility where the children and four workers died. The others facing arrest are mall officials, including the director of security.

Soco’s aunt said her niece had planned to come home for a vacation in October, when she would have worked in Doha for two years.

She wanted to have a blessing in December for a newly built home for her family that she had helped finance, and to have a reunion with aunts and cousins she had regularly sent money to.

The nursery teacher was an only child. Her mother, a single parent, has been working in Egypt for more than five years. Luzviminda helped raise Soco in their hometown of Cotabato City.

“It really pains her mother that they had not seen each other for many years, and now they will be together but her daughter is already a corpse,” said her aunt in a telephone interview.

The mother is scheduled to return to Cotabato next week, when Julie Ann’s body is expected from Qatar for burial, the aunt said.

“She was a very good child. We had no problems with her,” her aunt said, her voice cracking. AP


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