Twenty-one of those killed were students aged 13-17, while seven others were injured in the blaze. Officials say the fire is likely to have been caused by a short circuit.

Police and fire department work at the religious school  Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah after a fire broke out in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia September 14, 2017. (Reuters)
Police and fire department work at the religious school Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah after a fire broke out in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia September 14, 2017. (Reuters)

A fire at an Islamic boarding school killed 21 students and two teachers in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur after breaking out in a dormitory early on Thursday morning, officials said.

The fire at Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah, a "tahfiz" boarding school where students learn to memorise the Quran, was reported around 5.40 am local time (2140 GMT Wednesday), according to a statement from the Malaysian Fire and Rescue Department. 

The blaze began in the sleeping quarters on the top floor of the three-storey school building, the statement said. 

"The number of confirmed dead are 23 students and two wardens," Khirudin Drahman, director of Kuala Lumpur's fire and rescue department said.
"I think it is one of the country's worst fire disaster in the past 20 years."

TRT World's Nafisa Latic has the story.

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. 

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. 

"They're still counting the bodies, which were piled on top of each other in a corner," Singh said. 

Seven people were taken to a nearby hospital for injuries, while 11 others were rescued, fire department officials said in a notice put on a whiteboard at the school.

Hundreds of people, including families of some victims were gathered outside the school, as more bodies were being removed by fire officials. 

The police chief said no foul play was suspected. 

Abu Obaidat bin Mohamad Saithalimat, deputy director of the fire department told reporters outside the school that the fire was likely caused by short circuit. 

Tahfiz schools usually teach students between the ages of 5 and 18.

Such 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.