Published: Sat, September 16, 2017
Global Media | By Garry Long

At least 24 people, mostly teen boys, killed in Malaysian school fire

At least 24 people, mostly teen boys, killed in Malaysian school fire

The fire was reported around 5:40 am local time. REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin Religious school Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah is cordoned off after a fire broke out in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia September 14, 2017.

The topmost floor of the three-storey building was still burning during the call (azan) of the morning prayer, according to videos made by onlookers.

"The children were desperately trying to escape the flames, said on television the minister of the Territories of the Federation of Malaysia, Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor".

The victims are thought to been trapped in their dormitory as the windows were barred with metal grilles. An official said they saw bodies piled on top of each other, indicating that there could have been a stampede as the students tried to escape.

At least 15 bodies were found huddled together on another floor, it was reported. Officials initially said they suspected the fire was caused by an electrical short-circuit but later said this wasn't the case. She said she was briefed by a police officer and was told the dormitory was overcrowded.

Officials said the school was operating without a fire safety permit and license, and that a dividing wall was illegally built on the top floor that blocked the victims from a second exit.

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Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad is disappointed that the fire incident involving a tahfiz school in Kedah nearly three decades ago, has repeated itself in yesterday's tragedy.

In April, an 11-year-old boy from a private religious school in the southern Malaysian state of Johor had to have both of his legs amputated after he was allegedly abused at the facility.

Yesterday, Kuala Lumpur fire department chief Khirudin Drahman said chemical traces had been found around the area, suggesting that the incident could be an act of arson. "I think this is one of the worst tragedy in the country over the past 20 years".

The Malaysian prime minister Mohd Najib Tun Razak tweeted "Innalillah. May Allah bless their souls", he wrote.

"This is what he said, we don't just listen to verbal speeches, we need the black and white report".

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