In Brief

Malaysia fire: 24 die in blaze at unlicensed Islamic school

Authorities say there have been 29 similar fires at religious schools

malaysiafire.jpg

A fire at an illegally operated religious school in Kuala Lumpur early today killed two teachers and at least 22 students, who were trapped by a locked door and barred windows.

An electrical short circuit is believed to have caused the blaze at the Islamic school, which didn’t have a fire permit and was not licensed by local or religious authorities. Malaysia’s housing minister, Noh Omar, told journalists from news outlets including CNN that there have been 29 similar incidents involving fires at religious schools. 

Following the early morning blaze, firefighters found the remains of two teachers and 22 boys, all aged between 13 and 17, inside the Islamic “tahfiz” boarding school, reports The Daily Telegraph. Kuala Lumpur police chief Amar Singh said 14 other students and four teachers were rescued, with six of them hospitalised in critical condition.

Fire department officials said the victims were trapped behind fixed window grilles, while one of the fire exits on the second floor was reportedly blocked for renovations. 

At a press conference, deputy inspector-general of police Tan Sri Noor Rashid Ibrahim said an electrical fault was believed to have caused the fire. He said: “At the moment, our first suspicion is that it was a short circuit. But the forensics team will look at every aspect.”

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told reporters that it isn’t the first such incident, adding that all Islamic religious schools were required to register and follow safety requirements.

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