Kuala Lumpur: In one of the country’s worst fire disasters for years, 24 people, mostly teenage boys, were killed Thursday when a blaze tore through a Malaysian religious school.
The blaze broke out before dawn in the 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 the youngsters trying to escape the school as it went up in flames and neighbours hearing their cries for help.
“There were metal grills which prevented them from exiting the burning building,” said Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, Federal Territories Minister.
Kuala Lumpur Police chief Amar Singh said that “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.”
Six other students were in hospital in critical condition, police chief Singh said, while a handful escaped unhurt.
He said the victims who were students were all boys aged between 13 and 17.
According to reports, 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 children were sleeping in dorms.
Minister Tengku Adnan said the religious school, called Tahfiz Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah had been operating without a licence, while local media reported that officials had recently raised fire safety concerns about such private schools.