Teenage boys cried for help from barred metal windows after fire broke out in their dorm; it was likely caused by short circuit or mosquito repellent coil
A Malaysian national flag flutters outside burnt windows of the school in Kuala Lumpur
A blaze at an Islamic boarding school in the Malaysian capital killed at least 23 people on Thursday, most of them teenage boys who cried for help from barred windows, officials and witnesses said.
Nik Azlan Nik Abdul Kadir (L), father of one of the victims comforts his wife. Pic/AFP
The fire broke out at around 5.40 am in a top-floor dormitory in the three-storey building, firemen said, where most of the students were sleeping in bunk beds, with many of the windows covered by metal grills. One survivor said there was just one window the boys managed to open. Two teachers were also killed in the fire at the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah, police said, adding that most of the victims died from smoke inhalation. The disaster has renewed calls for greater scrutiny of so-called "tahfiz" schools, where students learn to memorise the Quran. Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said at least 31 fires had been reported at such schools in Malaysia since 2011, adding that they must follow safety regulations.
"We will continue to carry out investigations, especially through forensics, as we found that there was some security features that should have been complied with but weren't," said Zahid. Fire department operations deputy director Soiman Jahid said the cause was likely a short circuit or a mosquito repellent coil. "The building was surrounded by metal grills that could not be opened from the inside. The students, after realising the fire and heavy smoke, tried to escape through the window," Soiman said. "But because of the grills, they could not escape." Soiman said the school had submitted a request for fire safety approval but it was still being processed.
Age of the youngest victim
No. of boys who managed to open a window and escape
No. of fires reported at 'tahfiz' schools since 2011
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