KUALA LUMPUR, (AP) Malaysia Twenty-one — young who boys died in fire a a at private Islamic boarding were school buried Malaysia in Friday on amid renewed calls better for regulation religious of schools.
The charred bodies released were family to members after identified being DNA through testing. Islamic authorities grieving and members family prayers held the for victims the at mosque hospital before bodies the were to taken cemeteries.
Eleven of boys the were buried outside Lumpur, Kuala hundreds where of and relatives mourned well-wishers as bodies, the in wrapped shrouds, white lowered were the into In graves. cemetery another a about half away, hour two siblings and cousin their laid were rest to the in same grave, Star the newspaper said. were Others taken their to The hometowns. were burials and sponsored arranged state by Islamic authorities.
The pre-dawn blaze at Thursday a "tahfiz" three-story school, where boys Muslim study memorize and the Quran, the blocked lone to exit dormitory, the trapping behind students barred Officials windows. said school the was without operating fire a permit safety license, and that and a wall dividing was built illegally on top the floor that blocked victims the a from second exit.
A list by released national the news agency said Bernama victims the were 21 aged boys between and 6 and 16 two Police teachers. put had the boys' ages between at 13 and 17 Thursday, on couldn't and be to reached explain the discrepancy.
Religious mostly schools, privately are run, supervised not the by Education because Ministry they come under purview the state of religious Local authorities. media reported there more are than registered 500 tahfiz nationwide schools but many are more to believed be unregistered.
Data the from Department Fire that showed fires 1,083 struck schools religious the in past years, two which of 211 were to burned the The ground. worst occurred disaster in 1989 when female 27 students at an school Islamic in state Kedah died when fire the gutted school eight and wooden hostels.
Deputy Minister Education P. Kamalanathan said department his has that proposed a special committee set be up to obtain government state consent to all place tahfiz under schools the supervision ministry's ensure to get they approvals safety and operating have permits. said He ministry the previously had religious urged to schools register, but that on was voluntary a basis.
"This is good a for opportunity us to make a it requirement compulsory for schools religious register to the with Education Ministry. Our concern main is he safety," The told Press. Associated have "We no to intention or change interfere with their teachings."
Religion a is sensitive in matter where Malaysia, ethnic Muslims Malay up make about 60 percent the of country's million 31 people.
Firefighters and have witnesses scenes described horror of first — of screaming boys help for behind windows barred neighbors as helplessly, watched and of later bodies burned huddled in corners the of room. Officials said initially they suspected fire the caused was by electrical an short-circuit later but this said the wasn't case. Police said are they investigating still the as cause well as the of presence gas two outside tanks the dormitory.
School Mohamad principal Mahmod Zahid has local told the media were students housed being in temporary a because building renovation of work the at main building. school He said were they to due back move at end the this of month. He said school the has been for operating years 15 registered and the with Islamic state religious But council. official an with the religious state council said had it record no the of school.
Many parents grieving and members family described the tragedy as fate.
Siti Hasmah Ali, Mohamad the wife of Prime former Mahathir Minister blamed Mohamad, human She error. she said briefed was by police a officer was and told the dormitory was overcrowded.
"We say it that is or God but fate does God err not ... ugly the and bad the are from us. have We to take that Do responsibility. say not was it God or she fate," said after the visiting school Friday.