Firefighters work at the fire site of a religious school in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Sept. 14, 2017. (Xinhua/Chong Voon Chung)
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- A total of 24 people have died in a fire at a religious school in Kuala Lumpur early Thursday morning, said a Malaysian Fire and Rescue Department official.
Soiman Jahid, deputy director of the Fire and Rescue Department, said the latest death toll stands at 24, including 22 students and teachers of the school. The fire department had said earlier that at least 25 were killed in the fire.
The fire broke out at a three-storey building not far from the city center. Firefighters were dispatched to the scene after they received a fire alert at around 5:41 a.m. local time, but by the time they arrived, "the situation has become severe with 80 to 90 percent of the building on fire," Soiman told reporters.
Videos posted on social media showed that the three-storey building of the religious school was engulfed in raging fire before the firefighters' arrival.
The burnt bodies of the victims were found on the third floor after they were trapped in the building, he said.
The windows were sealed by fix grills, so the victims couldn't escape, Soiman said, adding that the sole staircase is in the middle of the building, "but the smoke was very thick that they couldn't get out."
According to Kuala Lumpur police chief Amar Singh, a total of 36 students aged 13 to 17 and six teachers were in the building when the fire broke out. The fire was put out one hour after the firefighters arrived.
"So far we do not suspect any foul plays," he said.
Soiman said the fire department has started investigation and "hopefully in two to three days we could find the actual cause of the fire."
He said the operator of the school had only recently submitted the application for approval to the fire department, and the fire broke out before authorities could conduct the fire safety inspection. Local media has reported earlier that the safety measures at unregistered and private schools were a concern to the authorities.