Asean Fo­cus At least 23 die in re­li­gious school blaze in Kuala Lumpur


The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Asean Focus - 14

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.

– Xin­hua

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