At least 25 students and teachers have died in a fire at a religious school in Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur.
The fire at the Tahfiz Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah broke out in the early hours of the morning.
“The number of confirmed dead are 23 students and two wardens,” Khirudin Drahman, director of the fire and rescue department, told AFP.
“I think it is one of the country’s worst fire disasters in the past 20 years,” he said.
“It really does not make sense for so many to die.”
The ages of the students killed were not immediately clear. But Islamic tahfiz schools – where children study the Koran – usually take children aged between five and 18.
They often live at the school.
Images and videos circulating online appeared to show the entire upper room of the school, where students would have been sleeping, ablaze.
Officials said that fire engines were at the site within minutes, and the blaze was put out within an hour.
Pictures later in the morning showed charred beds inside the school and scorched windows on the top floor.
A number of students were also reported to have been taken to hospital, some suffering from smoke inhalation.
Prime Minister Najib Razak has tweeted his sympathies to those affected while a government minister said the incident should be quickly investigated “so that we will be able to prevent future disasters”.
“We sympathise with the families. It is one of the worst fires involving so many lives in the capital in recent years, said Loga Bala Mohan, according to AFP.
Malaysian authorities have raised concerns about safety measures at unregulated private religious schools.
Local media report there have been more than 200 fires at such schools since 2015.