Kuala Lumpur school fire kills 23 students, 2 teachers

Kuala Lumpur school fire kills 23 students, 2 teachers

"It is one of the country's worst fire disasters in the past 20 years", Khirudin Drahman, director of the fire and rescue department, told AFP.

Another witness, Ms Nurhayati Abdul Halim, spoke of her helplessness during the incident.

A neighbour living next door to the school told the Reuters news agency they heard screams and saw the flames. The victims are trapped inside the room when the fire broke out high. Also, the windows are having grills through which students can not exit. There was only one door in and out. But he says a wall was built dividing that floor, leaving only one exit for the dorm. He was awakened by screaming and managed to escape. "There was nothing we could do". The dormitory was blackened, lined with the charred frames of bunk beds.

A fire department official, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to give a statement, said the bodies were piled on top of each other, indicating a possible stampede as people tried to flee the fire.

JBPM director-general Datuk Wan Mohd Nor Ibrahim said they were now investigating from the point of negligence and technicality and the investigation was expected to take two to three weeks. According to the school's principal, the students were being housed in the dorm temporarily while the school underwent construction. He said they were due to move back at the end of this month.

Meanwhile, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Jamil Khir Baharom said the earliest they can release the results of the victim identification will be 3.30pm today, as reported by The Star.

The blaze has sparked outrage and focused attention on religious schools in Malaysia, where many Muslims send their children to study the Quran, but which are not regulated by the education ministry.

He said police would investigate on claims that the centre was operating without a permit.

In the hours after the fire, the boys' relatives gathered outside the school.

At the burial site on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, 12 graves were being prepared and chairs had been set up under canopies for family members. "Safety should come first".

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