At least 25 people, including students and teachers, have been killed in the fire that erupted at a religious school in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.
The officials initially gave a death toll of 25 people, but later revised it to 22 students and 2 wardens.
Kuala Lumpur police chief Amar Singh told reporters the boys who died were aged 13-17, and that they were probably suffocated due to smoke inhalation.
Tahfiz schools, which are unregulated by the education ministry and fall under the purview of the religious department, have been under scrutiny since earlier this year when an 11-year-old boy died after reported abuse in Johor, north of Singapore.
The dormitory had only one entrance, leaving many of the victims trapped inside, he said. Some witnesses said they had heard the students crying for help after the fire broke out.
Officials suspected an electrical short circuit caused the blaze that broke out in a top floor dormitory, where most of the students perished.
The blaze began in the sleeping quarters on the top floor of the three-storey school building, the statement said.
The fire at Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah, a “tahfiz” boarding school where students learn to memorize the Koran, was reported around 5.40 a.m. local time (2140 GMT Wednesday), according to a statement from the Malaysian Fire and Rescue Department.
“The number of confirmed dead are 23 students and two wardens,” Khirudin Drahman, director of Kuala Lumpur’s Fire and Rescue Department told AFP. “They could have died due to smoke inhalation or got trapped in the fire.”
At least 11 others were saved from the burning building after firefighters from a nearby station rushed to the scene within minutes. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.
“I think it is one of the country’s worst fire disaster in the past 20 years. We are now investigating the cause of the fire,” Drahman said.