23 dead in fire at KL tahfiz school - Updated (Video)

The Fire and Rescue Department at the scene of the incident.
The list of victims killed in the fire.
The wreckage caused by the fire in one of the rooms of the tahfiz school.
Police and fire department work at the religious school Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah after a fire broke out, Sept 14, 2017. — Reuters
Rescue workers at the religious school Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah after a fire broke out, Sept 14, 2017. — Reuters
The charred interior of the religious school Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah after a fire broke out early this morning, Sept 14, 2017. — Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR: Twenty-one pupils and two wardens were killed in a fire that broke out at a religious school, Tahfiz Darul Ittifaqyah in Jalan Datuk Keramat, here today.

City police chief Commissioner Datuk Amar Singh said the city Fire and Rescue Department was alerted to the incident at about 5.40am and arrived at the scene within six minutes.

“The rescuers managed to put out the fire after exactly one hour. A total of 35 students and six teachers stayed in this religious school. The police together with the rescuers rescued 14 students and four wardens managed to flee the scene," he said at a press conference.

Amar added initial investigations revealed there was no foul play in the incident.

“The sad part is there is only one exit or entrance in the premises. So the students were trapped and the bodies were clumped up in one area,” he said.

He said the pupils who perished were aged 11 to 17 while the wardens were in their 30's.

He said investigators believe that the victims were overcome by smoke inhalation.

"The bodies were totally burned," he said.

The remains of the victims were sent to Hospital Kuala Lumpur for post-mortem.

Amar added that six of the victims at the school were also critically injured after jumping out of the window on the top-most floor.

He said it is too early to identify the cause of the fire.

He added the absence of hinged grilles on the second floor was also one of the reasons the victims were trapped in the room.

When asked about the school's permit, Amar said the investigation team is checking on the matter.

Among the victims were the children of a policeman, D/KPL F. Zaska Yusoh who is attached to Cheras district police Criminal Investigation Department.

They were identified as Azkar Abiedi F. Zaska 11, and Azkar Darimi F. Zaska ,8.

Later, Deputy Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Noor Rashid Ibrahim said police suspect a short circuit to be the cause of the fire at the school.

"At the moment our first suspicion is that it was a short circuit. But the forensics team will look at every aspect," he said.

He also denied reports that a baby was in the school at the time of the fire.

Fire and Rescue Department director-general Datuk Wan Mohd Nor Ibrahim said the incident could have been avoided if the school had followed government regulations in applying for the proper follow-up permits.

"The first five minutes of any fire is important because the smoke itself can kill the occupants.

"Also, we realised the arrangements of the beds were so close or in other words, the room was packed and the single entrance or exit is not part of the safety aspects," he said.

Wan Mohd added the operations of the tahfiz school should have only begun after all the permits were acquired.

"The permit application is not a lengthy process ... it could take up to only a month.

"If they would have called us for inspection, we would have advised the school to implement all the fire safety requirements before starting its operations," he said.

Below is a video of the incident:

Below is a video of the press conference by Kuala Lumpur police chief Commissioner Datuk Amar Singh: