KUALA LUMPUR – At least 23 people died and seven others were injured in a fire that broke out on Thursday at a Muslim religious school in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian authorities reported.
Health Minister Subramaniam Sathasivam confirmed at a press conference that there were 23 bodies in the Kuala Lumpur Hospital and asked people to help identify them.
“Many of them were burnt beyond recognition so we need to get DNA samples of their parents to determine their identities,” said Subramaniam, adding that they hoped to complete the process in a couple of days.
Regarding the injured, the minister said that “some suffered broken and fractured bones, injuries to their lungs and liver and some of them require surgery.”
The seven injured are among the 12 students and two teachers that were able to escape from the building.
The health minister also offered psychological aid to the families of the victims.
The fire started shortly before dawn at the Pusat Tahfiz Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah school in Keramat, northeastern Kuala Lumpur, and spread all over the premises.
Arikato Musimira, 48, who lives close to the school, told epa that he saw the fire around 5:15 am and shortly after heard people screaming, “Oh my God! It’s so painful! Fire, fire, fire!”
Two teachers and 21 students, aged between 13 and 17, are among the dead.
Amar Singh, police chief of the city, told local media that police believed that the fire broke out near the door, thereby blocking any possible escape.
The official said that an investigation had been opened to determine the causes of the fire.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak sent his condolences on Twitter to the relatives of the dead from the United States, where he is on an official visit.
According to local media, firefighters had already warned in August about poor fire safety measures in private religious centers.