People gather outside an Islamic religious school which was cordoned off after a fire on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur Sept 14, 2017. Officials said the fire killed at least 24 people, mostly teenagers, who were trapped behind barred windows and a blocked exit. (PHOTO / AP)
KUALA LUMPUR — A fire killed at least 24 people, mostly teenagers, who were trapped behind barred windows and a blocked exit in an Islamic school dormitory on the outskirts of Malaysia's capital early Thursday, officials said.
We believe (they died of) suffocation...the bodies were totally burnt.
Amar Singh, Chief, Kuala Lumpur police
Firefighters rushed to the scene after receiving a distress call at 5:41 am and took an hour to put out the blaze, Kuala Lumpur police chief Amar Singh said.
The fire started on the top floor of the three-story building, he added.
Singh said there were at least 24 charred bodies, 22 of them boys between 13 and 17, and two teachers.
Singh said 14 other students and four teachers were rescued, with six of them hospitalized in critical condition.
"We believe (they died of) suffocation...the bodies were totally burnt," he said.
The fire broke out near the door of the boys' dormitory, trapping the victims as it was the only entrance and the windows are grilled, fire department senior official Abu Obaidat Mohamad Saithalimat said.
Rescue workers carry bodies of the dead victims after a fire at an Islamic religious school on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Sept 14, 2017. Officials said the fire started early Thursday at the top floor of the three-story building. (PHOTO / AP)
He said the cause was believed to be a short-circuit.
A fire department official, who declined to be named because he wasn't authorized to give a statement, said the bodies were piled on top of each other, indicating a possible stampede as people tried to flee the fire.
The official had earlier said 25 bodies were found, but the more recent tally of dead and injured matches the number of people thought to have resided there.
Singh said police were still finalizing the details and investigating the cause.
Local media showed pictures of blackened bunk beds frames in the burned dormitory.
Unidentified Muslim hug each other outside an Islamic religious school following a fire there, Sept 14, 2017. (PHOTO / AP)
A resident known as Norhayati told a local television station that she saw the boys crying and screaming for help, and waving their hands out of the window when the fire broke.