Dorm fire at religious school kills at least 23
MALAYSIA: A fire at an Islamic boarding school for boys has killed at least 23 people, most of them students, in Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur.
Officials said they suspected an electrical short circuit or mosquito repellent coil caused the blaze that broke out yesterday in a top-floor dormitory, where most of the students perished.
The disaster has renewed calls for greater scrutiny of so-called ‘‘tahfiz’’ schools, where students learn to memorise the Quran. They are unregulated by the education ministry, being the responsibility of the religious department.
At least 30 fires at such schools had been reported this year, Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Noh Omar said, adding that the Kuala Lumpur school should not have been in operation.
The blaze began in the sleeping quarters on the top floor of the three-storey school building, the officials said.
Kuala Lumpur police chief Amar Singh said the boys who died were aged 13 to 17, and were probably suffocated due to smoke inhalation.
Fire department operations deputy director Soiman Jahid said the dormitory had only one entrance, leaving many of the victims trapped.
‘‘The building was surrounded by metal grilles that could not be opened from the inside,’’ Soiman said outside the school.
Some witnesses said they heard the students crying for help after the fire broke out.
‘‘They’re still counting the bodies, which were piled on top of each other in a corner,’’ Singh said.
Hundreds of people, including the families of some victims, gathered outside the school as bodies were being removed by fire officials. Singh said no foul play was suspected. - Reuters