KUALA LUMPUR: The religious school where it is now confirmed that 23 people died in a fire early Thursday was in the midst of applying for a fire safety permit.
However, the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah tahfiz started its operations before the permit was approved by the Fire and Rescue Department.
Department deputy director-general (operations) Datuk Soiman Jahid said the incident could have been avoided if the school had followed the local government regulations in applying for the proper permits.
"Based on our investigations the school had not acquired a permit to begin its operations and it was applying for one," he told reporters at the scene.
He said the charred remains of 22 students and two teachers were found in two corners near the windows of a room on the top floor.
He said the cause of the fire which started at about 5am could have been due to the burning of mosquito coil or a short circuit.
"We will know more in two to three days. Our men are going through the area to see if we missed any victims," he said.
Asked if the school should have been operating without a permit, Soiman said according to local government regulations, the operations should have only began after all the permits were aqcuired.
"We would have advised the school to implement all the fire safety requirements before starting its operations.
"Based on our initial investigations, the position the victims were found indicated that they tried to escape through the windows but were stopped due to the fixed grills on the windows," he said.
He said the department would have advised the school to install hinged grills.