A fire broke out at a school in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur in the early hours of Thursday 14 September, killing at least 23 students and 2 adults.
The school was the three-story Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah Tahfiz school – an Islamic religious school.
Eyewitness reported being woken up by loud cries for help from within the burning building, where they saw children trapped behind windows covered with metal grilles.
CNN quotes eyewitness Shahirman Shahril as saying, “I saw children kicking on the grill but they couldn’t get out. My friends and I rushed over and tried to reach them but we couldn’t get in.”
By the time rescue crews got there, 90% of the building had reportedly burnt down.
Besides those who died in the flames, at least four others suffered serious burns, say reports.
“The firemen could hear cries for help from inside the building,” CNN spokesman Soiman Jahid said. “The first team from (the) fire station managed to save five of the children from the lower level.”
The charred remains of beds within the school. Photo: CNN screengrab
A desperate bid to escape
“Based on my observation, the building has grills that could not be opened from inside,” said Jahid, continuing, “because of the grills, they could not escape through the windows, except for the five students who escaped through the door and sought help from the firemen.”
It was also revealed that one of the two fire exits were blocked by renovation works.
Malaysia’s Health Minister Dr S Subramaniam has said that identifying the victims could take days because, “the bodies suffered severe burns to the point that it is difficult to confirm the identities.”
Earlier reports mentioned speculations that an electric short circuit had caused the fire. But most recent reports say that Kuala Lumpur Fire and Rescue Department director Khirudin Drahman suspects foul play or mischief instead.
“It was not from a short circuit. If it was, the fire will need about 30 minutes to go that big,” he told The Malaysian Insight, adding that this blaze spread very quickly.
Deputy Inspector General of Police Noor Rashid Ibraham has confirmed that so far, victims were aged between 13 and 17. DNA testing would be needed to identify younger victims.
The school should NOT have been in operation
Malaysia’s Minister of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government, Noh Omar is quoted by the CNN as saying that “the school’s license was being reviewed by the authorities and it should not have been in operation.”
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has expressed his sympathy for those affected. “Deeply saddened to hear Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah Tahfiz Center burned and that more than 20 lives were lost. May their souls be blessed by Allah SWT. Al Fatihah,” he wrote on Twitter.
theAsianparent is deeply saddened by this unfortunate incident and our hearts go out to the families of the victims. RIP to the young victims.