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At least 25 have been killed in a fire at the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah Tahfiz Centre, a religious school in Jalan Datuk Keramat, Kuala Lumpur yesterday early morning (Sept 14).
Witnesses could only watch on helplessly as the fire swept through the top floor of the three-story building, while students and teachers were trapped behind fixed metal grilles, with no means to escape.
Those who were in the vicinity described children screaming for help as the flames drew closer.
Many of the victims, including 21 boys, mostly teenagers, were discovered piled on top of one another, suggesting that there could have been a stampede as they attempted to flee the encroaching inferno.
A witness, Hazen, 69, told The Star:
“I could hear the students shouting for help. It was frustrating that I could not help them.
“I even tried to break open the back door but I could not.”
It is believed that many of the victims died from smoke inhalation and collapsed before getting engulfed by the roaring flames.
For Mrs Mashawani Mohamed Shahid, 29, the tragedy was three times as saddening.
The widow lost three sons --- Muhammad Syafid Haikal, 13, Muhammad Hafiz Iskandar, 11, and Muhammad Harris Ikhwan, 10 --- in the fire.
Her cousin said that the victims’ mother was grieving over the loss.
The blaze was reportedly put out within an hour after firefighters rushed down to the scene.
Nevertheless, the devastation caused was great, and its toll high.
Kuala Lumpur Fire and Rescue Department director Khirudin Drahman said in an official statement that the fire could have been an act of mischief, disputing earlier speculations of an electric short circuit by the Malaysian Police, reports The Malaysian Insight.
He added that he had ruled out short circuit as the cause due to the intensity of the fire, and the department was investigating the possibility of the fire being caused by mischief.
Mr Khirudin revealed that two cooking cylinders were found in front of the door leading into the dorm, and a forensics team was looking into them.
“It was not from a short circuit. If it was, the fire will need about 30 minutes to go that big.”