Malaysia school blaze kills 23 kids, teachers

Two wardens sleeping in the room woke up when the fire broke out and tried to rescue students, but, said Muhammad, they perished with the others.

Rescuers found the bodies of 21 schoolboys and two teachers in piles, indicating there may have been a stampede as the students sought to escape the inferno.

Fire Department operations deputy director Soiman Jahid said the dormitory had only one entrance, leaving numerous victims trapped.

In August, 16 people - including eight pupils - fled an early-morning blaze at the family-run Tahfiz Al-Taqwa school in Baling, Kedah.

"I saw their little hands out of the grilled windows, crying for help", area resident Nurhayati Abdul Halim told local media as reported by The New York Times.

He said his department had come back to the school with recommendations for fire safety, including equipment. "We hope to be able to save the seven that are already here", he added.

"This is what he said, we don't just listen to verbal speeches, we need the black and white report".

He said the living arrangements at the top floor were very cramped with double-decker beds placed too close to one another.

Officials say that bodies were stacked on top of each other, one after the other.

Another fire department official, Soiman Jahid, said firefighters heard shouts for help when they arrived at the school.

Twenty-four people, mostly students, were killed in a fire Thursday from a religious school in Kuala Lumpur, announced a local official, one of the worst tragedies of recent years in Malaysia.

Amar ruled out foul play and said investigations into the cause of the fire are being carried out.

Numerous bodies of the victims - who included 22 boys aged between 13 and 17 - were found piled on top of one another, indicating there may have been a stampede as the students sought to escape the blaze which erupted before dawn.

More than 60 percent of multicultural Malaysia's population of about 30 million are Muslim Malay, and the country is also home to substantial religious and ethnic minorities.

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.

  • Rogelio Becker