Malaysia conducts burial of school fire victims

At least 21 boys, ages 13 to 17, and two teachers were killed in the blaze Thursday at the Darul Koran Ittifaqiyah school in Kuala Lumpur, according to media reports.

REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin Family members wait for news of their loved ones outside religious school Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah after a fire broke out in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia September 14, 2017.

Twenty-one students and two teachers/wardens perished in the fire. Fire department operations deputy director Soiman Jahid said the cause was likely a short circuit or a mosquito repellent coil.

Officials said fire engines were at the site within minutes, and the blaze was put out within an hour.

He added that if the fire was caused by "mischief" then it would be considered a crime, which falls under the police's jurisdiction.

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The official said the bodies were piled on top of each other, indicating a possible stampede as people tried to flee the fire.

Initial investigations showed the small, all-boys school was operating without a fire-safety permit, though it had applied for one, fire authorities said.

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

"This is just a normal procedure in every case and police will investigate it as soon as possible", he said.

Most of the victims - 23 children and two adults - were asleep in their dormitories when the fire broke out, and once the blaze had taken hold it was too late. Firefighters remained powerless and failed to help, while the students' screams were heard in the background: "I saw their small hands through the windows", a witness said. "We hope to be able to save the seven that are already here", he added.

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There were 519 tahfiz schools registered across the country as of April, but many more are believed to be unregistered, the paper said.

'May their souls be blessed, ' he wrote while on a three day visit to the US.

The accident will increase scrutiny of the religious schools known as tahfiz, where many Muslim Malaysians send their children to study the Holy Quran but which are not regulated by education authorities and often operate illegally.

In 1989, 27 students were killed in a fire at a girls' hostel in the province of Kedah.

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