Asean Focus At least 23 die in religious school blaze in Kuala Lumpur
THE MYANMAR TIMES
MALAYSIAN authorities were investigating the cause of a fire early Thursday that blocked the only exit of an Islamic dormitory on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, killing 23 people, most of them teenagers.
Firefighters and witnesses described scenes of horror – first of boys screaming for help behind barred windows as neighbours watched helplessly, and later of burned bodies huddled in corners of the room. Islamic teacher Arif Mawardy said he woke up to what he thought was a thunderstorm, only to realise it was the sound of people screaming.
Firefighters rushed to the scene after receiving a distress call at 5:41am (4:11am, Myanmar time) and took an hour to put out the blaze, which started on the top floor of the three-storey building, Kuala Lumpur police chief Amar Singh said.
Singh said 23 charred bodies were recovered – 21 boys between the ages of 13 and 17 and two teachers.
“We believe (they died of) suffocation... the bodies were totally burnt,” he said. Singh said 14 other students and four teachers were rescued.
Health Minister S. Subramaniam said six other students and a resident who went to help were hospitalised, with four of them in critical condition. He said the 23 bodies were in the Forensics Department waiting to be identified through DNA.
The fire broke out near the only door to the boys’ dormitory, trapping the victims because the windows were barred, fire department senior official Abu Obaidat Mohamad Saithalimat said. He said the cause was believed to be an electrical shortcircuit, though Singh said the investigation was continuing.
Another fire department official, Soiman Jahid, said firefighters heard shouts for help when they arrived at the school. He said they found a pile of bodies in the right corner of the dorm and another pile in the left corner.
Local media showed pictures of blackened bed frames in the burned dormitory. A resident, Nurhayati Abdul Halim, was quoted as saying that she saw the boys crying and screaming for help.
“I saw their little hands out of the grilled windows; crying for help . ... I heard their screams and cries but I could not do anything. The fire was too strong for me to do anything,” she said. She added that the school had been operating in the area for the past year.
Noh Omar, Malaysia’s minister for
Brunei is ready to maintain high-level exchanges with China, expand cultural exchanges, jointly safeguard peace and stability of the South China Sea, and boost stronger ASEAN-CHINA relations, the Sultan said.
The two heads of state witnessed the signing of several cooperation documents regarding the Belt and Road Initiative, infrastructure and health.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and top legislator Zhang Dejiang also met with the Sultan earlier on Wednesday.
Li said China regards ASEAN as a diplomatic priority and will continue to support ASEAN communitybuilding and its centrality in regional cooperation.
China will work with Brunei to promote the East Asian Leaders’ meetings on cooperation later this year to produce more outcomes that contribute to regional stability, cooperation and prosperity, he said.