Keramat tahfiz school fire: Here's what we know so far

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The nation was rocked today with news that a deadly fire broke out at a religious school in Kampung Datuk Keramat.

The blaze, at the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah tahfiz school, claimed the lives of 23 people. Two of them are the school’s wardens.

The incident has been described as the country’s worst fire disaster in 20 years.

Here’s what we know so far about the tragedy.

WHAT HAPPENED

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A fire broke out at the Pusat Tahfiz Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah religious centre located at Jalan Keramat Ujung, Kampung Datuk Keramat around 5.15am today.

The fire is believed to have started in one of the dormitory rooms on the top floor of the three-storey building.

At the time, there were a total of 36 students and six teachers in the building.

The tahfiz centre had only been in existence for about a year. It was built from contributions from the local surau.

EMERGENCY CALL

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The Kuala Lumpur Fire and Rescue Department said it received a distress call at 5.41am. It is unknown for now as to why the department was reportedly only alerted to the incident almost 30 minutes after the blaze started.

CAUSE OF FIRE

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The Fire and Rescue Department have yet to determine the exact cause of the fire. Among the possible cases include a short circuit, as well as mosquito coils, which may have sparked the blaze.

One of the survivors, a student, had claimed that he smelled a gas-like scent just before the fire. The boy had also claimed that the fire spread “very quickly.”

Rescue authorities have deployed sniffer dogs from the K9 unit to aid them in uncovering the cause of the blaze.

THE TRAGEDY

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It is understood that the students were asleep when the blaze happened. The authorities believe that when the fire broke out, the students tried to make their way out but were trapped.

It is learnt that the building’s windows were fitted with grills which could not be opened from inside. In addition, there was only one door to enter and exit the building. There was also no dedicated fire exit.

Firemen who entered the building found the charred remains heaped on top of one another. They were found at several locations, all near windows at the third floor.

Several boys however managed to escape after breaking open a window at the third floor and jumping a first-floor awning.

WERE SAFETY REQUIREMENTS MET?

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Did the school meet the necessary safety requirements?

The Fire and Rescue Department said the school had submitted its building plans in 2015. The authorities had briefed the school management on the necessary fire prevention methods.

The school however, did not submit its mechanical and engineering plans for approval before constructing the building.

The building was instead built without MNE plan approval and an inspection by the Fire and Rescue Department.

Interior renovations were also made, with more dividers built. One exit was also closed off.

Authorities also believe that the dorm beds being arranged too closely together may have played a factor in preventing a swift escape for the victims.

AFTERMATH

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To date, 23 students, aged between 13 and 17 have perished. Also dead were two wardens.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam told a press conference that the bodies were burnt so severely that DNA tests are required to identify them.

This process will likely take several days.

Seven fire victims are being treated at the KL Hospital. Of the seven, six are students while another is a Keramat resident who came to assist the victims during the incident.

Four are badly injured.

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