Police: With only one door, victims couldn’t escape fire at religious school (VIDEO)

BY JASMINE ANDRIA AND KENNETH TEE
Rescue workers gather outside the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah religious school in Kuala Lumpur September 14, 2017. ― Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 14 ― The charred bodies of 22 students and two teachers were found on the second floor of a religious school here after a fire broke out in the building early this morning, police said today.

City police chief Datuk Amar Singh said there was only one door which was used as an exit and entrance, making it hard for the victims, whose bodies were found clumped together, to escape the burning building at Datuk Keramat.

The police clarified that the death toll stood at 24, as earlier reports said 25 people had been killed.

Amar said firefighters managed to rescue 14 students, while four teachers escaped the fire.

A total of 36 students, aged between 13 and 17, and six teachers were living at the tahfiz (Quranic memorisation) school.

Firefighters were alerted at 5.45am and managed to completely douse the fire at 6.40am.

Six students are currently in critical condition at Kuala Lumpur Hospital.

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

One of the religious teachers who escaped the fire said he woke up at 5.30am to the sound of gas hissing from above.

“It sounded like a storm to me,” said Mohd Arif Mawardy, who has been working for seven months in the tahfiz school.

The 24-year-old said he was on the second floor with three other ustaz and he woke them up to save students on the second floor. He had gone to the first floor as the fire on the third floor was too big.

“We couldn't save all of them. There was not enough water to extinguish the fire,” he said, teary-eyed.

A witness, who lives across the street from the school, said he was woken up by the victims’ cries early this morning.

“They were all yelling for help. There was no way I could jump over into the compound so I ran behind to get to the door but it was jammed.

“The fire spread rapidly. They were crying for help for about 20 minutes. After that, I heard three explosions from inside and suddenly the voices were gone. Firemen were already arriving by that time,” said the 64-year-old who only wanted to be identified as Hazn.