Fire at Malaysian Islamic school kills 23 people

Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah school [Image: Hindustan Times]

A fire at an Islamic school in Malaysia has killed 23 people, mostly children, after they were trapped in a dormitory with metal grilles barring the windows.

Teachers and pupils inside Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah in downtown Kuala Lumpur screamed for help as local residents looked on, unable to assist them.

Most of the bodies of the deceased – including 21 boys in their early teens – were found piled on top of one another, which indicated that there may have been a stampede as the pupils tried to escape the blaze that started before dawn.

Firefighters rushed to the scene and the fire was out within an hour but it had significantly damaged the building. Pictures showed burnt beds in the students’ sleeping areas.

The incident will inevitably attract criticisms of the Islamic schools known as “tahfiz”, where many Malaysian Muslims send their children to study the Qur’an, but are not usually regulated by government authorities.

Deputy Prime Minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, said fire department records showed there had been 31 fires at unregulated Islamic schools since 2011.

61.3% of Malaysia’s population are Sunni Muslim which amounts to around 19.5 million people.

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