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23 People Killed in Malaysia Religious School Fire

  • VOA News

Unidentified Malaysians cry outside an Islamic religious school following a fire on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Sept. 14, 2017. The official said the fire, which killed mostly teenagers, started early Thursday at the top floor of the three-story building.

An early morning fire at a private religious school in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur killed 23 people Thursday, most of them teenage boys.

Fire officials say the pre-dawn blaze at the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah broke out in the top floor of the dormitory building where the students were sleeping. The victims — 21 boys between the ages of 13 and 17, and two adult teachers — were unable to escape because the only entrance to the sleeping quarters was blocked by the fire, and the windows were covered by iron grills.

The Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah school, Kuala Lumpur
The Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah school, Kuala Lumpur

Witnesses looked on helplessly as they heard the students screaming for help as the fire raged. Their bodies were later found huddled in two corners of the burned-out room.

Fire officials say they likely died of smoke inhalation.

Eighteen other residents in the school were rescued, with six of them hospitalized in critical condition.

Police prepare to bring victims out of an Islamic religious school after a fire on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sept. 14, 2017. A fire department official in Malaysia said the fire at the school killed people, mostly teenagers.
Police prepare to bring victims out of an Islamic religious school after a fire on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sept. 14, 2017. A fire department official in Malaysia said the fire at the school killed people, mostly teenagers.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but officials believe it was started by an electrical short circuit.

The Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah is one of hundreds of schools in Malaysia known as "tahfiz" where children study and memorize the Koran. Many of the schools are unregulated by the government.

The Star newspaper says the fire department has recorded 211 fires at tahfiz schools since 2015. Sixteen people escaped a fire at a tahfiz in northern Kedah state back in August. Religious schools have come under further scrutiny since an 11-year-old boy died after allegedly suffering abuse in the southern state of Johor.

The Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah had just submitted a request with city officials for fire safety approval for the building.

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