23 killed in Malaysia school fire

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Kuala Lumpur, Sep 14 (IANS) At least 23 people were killed in a fire at a religious school in the Malaysian capital on Thursday, officials said.

A police official said 21 students and two teachers were killed in the fire. The Fire Department said earlier that at least 25 were killed in the fire which broke out at around 5.41 a.m, BBC reported.

Ten people were taken to hospital, and four were reported to have serious injuries.

“Based on our initial investigations, the position the victims were found in indicated that they tried to escape through the windows but were prevented due to the fixed grills on the windows,” Fire and Rescue Department Operations Deputy Director Soiman Jahid said.

He said police were still investigating what caused the fire but that it likely was caused by an electrical short circuit or a lit mosquito repellent coil.

Videos posted on social media showed that the three-storey building of the religious school was engulfed in raging fire before the firefighters’ arrival.

Ahmad Tarmizi, a 46-year-old local resident who lives across the school, said he was going to a nearby mosque to pray when he saw the raging fire on the third floor of the school.

“I saw four boys in the third floor screaming ‘too hot, too hot,'” said Ahmad, adding he later helped a boy who managed to get out of the window and fell on the ground.

“Before 6 o’clock, the firemen came but I think many of the people already died inside because of the smoke,” Ahmad said.

He said the students mainly came from the neighbourhood to read Quran in the school.

According to Kuala Lumpur police chief Amar Singh, a total of 36 students aged 13 to 17 and six teachers were in the building when the fire broke out.

The fire was put out some one hour after the firefighters arrived.

Local media reports said the school could have been operating against government regulations, because its fire safety permit application was allegedly still pending.

Malaysia’s Health Minister S. Subramaniam said that among the survivors, some broke their legs, some had lung or liver injuries.

“We will do our best to treat the patients here. Some specialists are taking care of them,” he said.

–IANS

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