Qatar prepared on Tuesday to bury or send home the bodies of 19 people who perished in a blaze that whipped through a nursery at a shopping mall, including New Zealand triplets and 10 other trapped children.
As investigators scoured for clues as to the cause of Monday's fire at the Villaggio Mall, a Qatari official said some of the victims will be buried in Doha on Tuesday, while most of the others will be repatriated.
"The families of four or five Muslims have requested to bury them in Qatar," said Captain Mubarak al-Bouainain, head of information department at the interior ministry.
Newspapers in the Gulf state raised questions over the licensing of a nursery in the middle of a huge mall, where the children and four teachers, including three from the Philippines and a South African, died of of smoke inhalation.
Bouainain confirmed that the dead children included the New Zealanders, four Spaniards, a South African boy, an American girl of Arab origin, a Chinese boy, a Canadian girl and an Egyptian girl and boy were killed.
The Egyptian boy also held French citizenship, the French embassy said.
He said two fire fighters, a Moroccan and an Iranian, also died.
In Wellington, Prime Minister John Key said New Zealand triplets, believed to be three-year-olds, were among those who died in the inferno.
Radio New Zealand named them as Lillie, Jackson and Willsher Weekes.
In Madrid, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said four of the youngsters who died were Spanish, while Paris announced that a three-year-old French child also perished.
Footage posted online showed black smoke billowing from the upmarket, Venice-themed complex as emergency vehicles rushed to the scene. Other pictures showed rescue workers carrying children on the roof of the mall.
The fire broke out at the Gympanzee nursery, or possibly near it.
"The first report of fire at Villaggio was received by the operations centre at 11:02 am (0802 GMT)," QNA state news agency quoted state minister for the interior Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Thani as saying, adding that police and civil defence reached the site within minutes.
He said it became clear that 20 children were in the first-floor nursery and "all efforts were concentrated on evacuating those kids," adding that fire fighters had to break through the roof to gain access after a staircase collapsed.
Dense smoke inside the mall combined with the fierce temperature from the flames made reaching the trapped children very difficult, a civil defence representative told a news conference.
Expatriate New Zealand journalist Tarek Bazley said he was in the shopping centre with his two children when the fire broke out, but they escaped unharmed.
"The volume of smoke coming out of it, it looked like you had 30 steam trains all pumping their smoke out above it," Bazley told Radio New Zealand.
But he said there was a lack of urgency from officials in the mall when alarms went off and complained of a "complete lack of planning, a complete lack of coordination in terms of removing people from this area."
"The first thing I heard of it was a very benign fire alarm; it sounded more like a door bell to be honest," he said.
Health Minister Khaled al-Qahtani said all the fatalities were caused by asphyxiation, adding that 17 people were injured, mostly fire fighters.
Crown Prince Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani ordered a commission set up to probe the blaze, Doha-based Al-Jazeera television reported.
In Madrid, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said embassy officials were trying to get more details on the four Spanish children killed.
Yamina Benguigui, the minister in charge of French expatriates, announced in Paris that a French child died, but declined to give any further details, including whether the victim was a boy or a girl.
"It is with great sorrow that I confirm that a French child aged three is among the victims," she said in a statement.
Community news Tumblr Doha News posted a note from South African Maryam Charles saying that her daughter, Shameega Charles, 29, who was a teacher at the nursery, "perished in the blaze."
It also said an 18-month-old South African was among the dead, in addition to a Moroccan fire fighter.
In Manila, a foreign department spokesman said three Filipino teachers who worked at the nursery died of smoke inhalation.
"Did this nursery meet the conditions to get a license," asked Al-Watan daily, addressing its question to the ministry of social affairs.
"We await answers over how it was allowed that kids of such age could be at a place not sufficiently equipped," it said.
"It is negligence that resembles a premeditated murder," charged Saleh al-Kawari, editor-in-chief of Al-Raya daily, in his editorial.