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At least 24 people, most of them teenagers, died after a horrific blaze tore through an Islamic boarding school in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur.
The fire broke out at roughly 5.40am local time on Thursday at the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah school, with officials describing the blaze as among the worst fires in the country’s recent history.
An electrical short circuit is suspected to have sparked the inferno which started in a top floor dormitory, where most of the students died, the Malaysian Fire and Rescue Department said.
Kuala Lumpur police chief Amar Singh told reporters that 22 students and two wardens were killed, with all the students boys aged 13 to 17.
The students, who were unable to escape the dormitory after fire blocked it’s only entrance, are likely to have suffocated due to smoke inhalation, he added.
Mr Singh said: “They’re still counting the bodies, which were piled on top of each other in a corner.”
Fire and Rescue Department operations deputy director Soiman Jahid told reporters outside the school: “The building was surrounded by metal grills that could not be opened from the inside.
“The students, after realising the fire and heavy smoke, tried to escape through the window.
“But because of the grills, they could not escape.”
Mr Jahid said officials were still investigating the cause of the fire but it was likely to have been caused by a short circuit or a lit mosquito repellant coil.
A man identified only as Hazin, who lived next door to the school, said his son called the fire department after hearing cries for help.
His friend’s son was reportedly among the students who died.
He told Reuters: “The children were crying for help, but I couldn’t help them as the door was already on fire. I only managed to save a few of the kids who jumped out the window.
“We ran there because he knew he was inside, but I couldn’t save him. He was trapped inside.”
Several of the 18 survivors of the blaze were taken to hospital and treated for injuries, officials said.
According to records of the Kuala Lumpur fire safety department, the school had just submitted a request for fire safety approval for the building.
The request was reportedly still being carried out when the fire broke out.
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