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Boys 'cried from barred windows' as school blaze kills 23 in Malaysia

Boys 'cried from barred windows' as school blaze kills 23 in Malaysia
From CBC - September 14, 2017

A blaze at an Islamic boarding school in the Malaysian capital killed at least 23 people on Thursday, most of them teenage boys who cried for help from barred windows, officials and witnesses said.

The fire broke out at around 5.40 a.m. local time in a top-floor dormitory in the three-storey building, firefighterssaid, where most of the students, aged between 13 and 17, were sleeping in bunk beds, with many of the windows covered by metal grills.

Two teachers were also killed in the fire at the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah, a 15-minute drive from the iconic Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, police said. Most of the victims died from smoke inhalation.

The building was surrounded by metal grills that could not be opened from the inside.
- SoimanJahid, firefighter

The disaster has renewed calls for greater scrutiny of so-called "tahfiz" schools, where students learn to memorise the Quran. They are unregulated by the education ministry, being the responsibility of the religious department.

At least 30 fires at such schools have been reported this year, Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Noh Omar told reporters, adding that the Kuala Lumpur school should not have been in operation. He did not elaborate on the previous fires.

Fire department operations deputy director Soiman Jahid said officials were investigating the fire but it was likely caused by a short circuit or a mosquito repellent coil. The dormitory had only one entrance, leaving many of the victims trapped, he said. At least one window was unbarred.

"The building was surrounded by metal grills that could not be opened from the inside. The students, after realizing the fire and heavy smoke, tried to escape through the window," Soiman said outside the school. "But because of the grills, they could not escape."

Soiman said the school had submitted a request for fire safety approval but no new checks had been carried out as the request was still being processed.

'Crying for help'

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