25 die in Kuala Lumpur school blaze

Mostly teenage boys per­ish, trapped in­side

Daily Dispatch - - World News -

TWENTY-FIVE peo­ple, mostly teenage boys, were killed yes­ter­day when a blaze tore through a Malaysian re­li­gious school in one of the coun­try’s worst fire dis­as­ters in years.

The blaze broke out be­fore dawn in a tah­fiz – an Is­lamic re­li­gious school – in the heart of the cap­i­tal Kuala Lumpur.

Fire­fight­ers rushed to the scene and the blaze was out within an hour, but not be­fore it wreaked ter­ri­ble dev­as­ta­tion.

Pic­tures in lo­cal me­dia showed ash-cov­ered, fire-black­ened beds, as hor­rific ac­counts emerged of young­sters try­ing to es­cape the school as it went up in flames and neigh­bours hear­ing their ter­ri­fied cries for help.

“The chil­dren were des­per­ately try­ing to es­cape the flames,” Fed­eral Ter­ri­to­ries Min­is­ter Tengku Ad­nan Tengku Man­sor said in a tele­vi­sion in­ter­view.

“There were metal grills which pre­vented them from ex­it­ing the burn­ing build­ing.”

Kuala Lumpur po­lice chief Amar Singh said the bod­ies were to­tally burned.

“Un­for­tu­nately there was only one en­trance, so they could not es­cape. All the bod­ies were found lumped on one an­other.”

The Star news­pa­per re­ported that peo­ple in the area who had wo­ken for morn­ing prayers heard cries for help and saw flames en­gulf­ing the top floor of the build­ing, where stu­dents were sleep­ing in dorms.

Kuala Lumpur’s fire and res­cue de­part­ment di­rec­tor Khirudin Drah­man said it was one of the coun­try’s worst fire tragedies in 20 years. Fire de­part­ment of­fi­cials said 23 stu­dents and two teach­ers were killed in the blaze.

Po­lice chief Singh said the stu­dents who died were all boys aged be­tween 13 and 17.

Ad­nan said the re­li­gious school, called Tah­fiz Darul Qu­ran It­ti­faqiyah, had been op­er­at­ing with­out a li­cence.

Lo­cal me­dia were re­port­ing that of­fi­cials had re­cently raised fire safety con­cerns about such pri­vate schools.

“The re­li­gious school did not have a op­er­at­ing li­cence from the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties,” Ad­nan said.

“The school also does not have any li­cence from the lo­cal re­li­gious au­thor­i­ties.

“There are many other re­li­gious schools [that op­er­ate il­le­gally] in the coun­try.”

Tah­fiz are re­li­gious schools where chil­dren study the Ko­ran in Malaysia, where over 60% of the pop­u­la­tion of about 30 mil­lion are Mus­lim.

The Star news­pa­per re­ported that the fire and res­cue de­part­ment had raised con­cerns about fire safety mea­sures at un­reg­is­tered and pri­vate tah­fiz, and had recorded 211 fires at such in­sti­tu­tions since 2015.

In Au­gust, 16 peo­ple in­clud­ing eight stu­dents fled an early morn­ing fire at a fam­ily-run tah­fiz in Bal­ing, in the north­ern state of Kedah, the pa­per re­ported.

There were 519 tah­fiz reg­is­tered across the coun­try as of April, but many more are be­lieved to be un­reg­is­tered, it said, adding that there was a ma­jor fire at a school in 1989 in the north­ern state of Kedah which killed 27 fe­male stu­dents. In Oc­to­ber last year, six peo­ple died in a fire that swept through the in­ten­sive care unit of a ma­jor hos­pi­tal in the south­ern state of Jo­hor. — AFP

Pic­ture: AFP

TRAGIC END­ING: Malaysian fire and res­cue per­son­nel stand out­side the Darul Qu­ran It­ti­faqiyah re­li­gious school in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia yes­ter­day where 25 peo­ple, mostly teenage boys, died in a blaze

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