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Triplets were 'magic, miracle children' - grandparents

Published: 6:33AM Tuesday May 29, 2012 Source: ONE News/Reuters

The grandparents of the New Zealand triplets killed in a fire in Qatar say they were "magic, miracle children".

Two-year-olds Lillie, Jackson and Willsher Weekes were among 19 people who died, 13 of them children, in a fire at a shopping mall in Doha overnight.

Grandparents Ron and Jo Turner said they are devastated by the incident and are flying from Wellington to Doha tonight to support their family.

The triplets' parents, Jane and Martin Weekes, had been in Qatar for the past five years. They returned to Wellington to give birth to the triplets after they were conceived using IVF.

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Earlier this year, Jane won a Best Mum in Doha competition for her job raising the triplets, to which she said "a mother's love is not divided amongst her children, but multiplied by each child".

On her profile page on the parenting website, Jane said she was at her happiest when her children sat around "laughing like loons at each other".

Jane called her father, Ron Turner, shortly after the incident and said she was "numbed" by the loss, Radio New Zealand reported.

Prime Minister John Key told reporters at Parliament the New Zealand consul in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, is travelling to Doha to support the children's family.

"Their family obviously are dealing with the terrible grief that they have at this time," Key said.

He said it is too early to say how the fire happened but there will be a full investigation in time.

"It's a great tragedy so obviously there's some very serious questions that will need to be answered. But at the moment we're really just trying to wrap around all the support we can for a family that will be grieving."

Key said the children's parents have been working in Qatar for some time.

Several nationalities

Four Spanish children and a French child were also among those killed, with others from Japan, the Philippines and Benin according to reports.

A relative of a two-year-old child who died in the fire told Reuters by phone from Qatar's Hamad hospital that there did not seem to have been any fire alarms or sprinklers at the mall.

Smoke was seen billowing from the mall, which was evacuated. Ambulances and police vehicles blocked entry to the complex.

An Interior Ministry official told journalists none of the dead were Qataris. Four of the dead adults were teachers and the other two were civil defence personnel, the official said.

Qatar's Interior Minister tweeted that the children killed were seven girls and six boys and the teachers were female.

Seventeen people were also wounded, including four children, the ministry official said.

The health minister said the cause of death for many of the children and the four teachers was suffocation due to smoke inhalation.

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.

The mall, which opened in 2006, is an Italianate-themed shopping complex with a hotel, theme park and canal plied by gondolas.

Many expatriates live in Qatar, a gas and oil-rich Gulf Arab state with one of the highest standards of living in the world.