KUALA LUMPUR, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- A total of 23 people have died in a fire at a religious school in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday morning, which may had been caused by short-circuit.
Noor Rashid Ibrahim, deputy inspector general of the national police, said the fire claimed the lives of 21 students and two teachers in the school. The fire department said earlier that at least 25 were killed in the fire.
The fire broke out at the 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 was on fire," Soiman Jahid, deputy director of the Fire and Rescue Department, told reporters at the scene.
The burnt bodies of the victims were found at the third floor after they were trapped in the building, he said.
The windows were sealed by fix grills so the victims could not 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."
The religious school, called Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah, was about three kilometers from the signature Petronas Twin Towers.
Videos posted on social media showed that the three-story building of the religious school was engulfed in raging fire before the firefighters' arrival.
Ahmad Tarmizi, a 46-year-old local resident who lives across the school, said he was going to a nearby mosque to pray when he saw the raging fire at the third floor of the school.
"I saw four boys in the third floor screaming 'too hot, too hot,'" said Ahmad, adding he later helped a boy who managed to get out the window and fell on the ground.
"Before 6 o'clock, the firemen came but I think many of the people already died inside because of the smoke," Ahmad said.
He said the students mainly came from the neighborhood or a nearby area called Ampang to read Quran in the school.
Mohd Daniel Borhan, a 15-year-old student who survived the fire, said he woke up during the night but saw the main door area was already having fire.
"I and two students broke the grills and went down using a pipe line and two more students jumped from upstairs," he added.
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 some one hour after the firefighters arrived.
"So far we do not suspect any foul plays," he said, but added that the fire may be due to short circuit.
Soiman said the fire department has started investigation and "hopefully in 2 to 3 days we could find the actual cause of the fire."
He said the operator of the school had only recently submit the application for approval to the fire department, and the fire broke out before authorities could conduct the fire safety inspection.
Local media reported earlier that the safety measures at unregistered and private schools were a concern to the authorities.
S. Subramaniam, Malaysia's health minister, said among the survivors, some broke their legs, some had lungs or liver injuries.
"We will do our best to treat the patients here. Some specialists are taking care of them," he said.