Blaze at a Malaysian Islamic religious school kills 25

Casey Dawson
September 16, 2017

"The youngsters were sobbing for help, yet I couldn't help them as the entryway was at that point ablaze", he said.

"We can rule out foul play based on our investigations so far", Comm Amar Singh said.

"Not only the owner, but the teachers, students who escaped the fire, including the 38 people in the hospital, we will investigate them all", he said at a press conference in Bukit Aman today.

At least 15 bodies were found huddled together on another floor, it was reported. The fire, which was sparked by an electric short circuit, spread to the third floor of the teenage boys' dormitory blocking their exit. They were crying for help for about 20 minutes.

"I heard their screams and cries but I could not do anything."
"There was not enough water to extinguish the fire", he said, teary-eyed.

Loga Bala Mohan, the deputy minister for federal territories, said: "We sympathise with the families".

He said the absence of hinged grills on the second floor was also one of the causes that caused the victims to be trapped in the room.

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"The wall shouldn't have been there", he said.

The school was said to have just been submitted to the city council for building safety approval, while - like many religious schools - it was claimed to be unlicensed with local authorities.

Tahfiz are religious schools in Malaysia, where children study the Koran. They were to move back into the main school later this month.

The latest tragedy was "the effect of the absence of enforcement, and the failure to abide by rules and regulations by the operators of the religious school", said Chandra Muzaffar, a political scientist.

Officials have not given any details on the students and teachers but the religious schools in the country usually take in children with ages from 5 to 18.

However, an official with the state religious council said it had no record of the school.

The Star newspaper said there were 519 tahfiz schools registered nationwide as of April, but many more are believed to be unregistered. The school has been in operation for more than a year. Pictures in local media showed beds blackened by fire and covered in ash.

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