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At least 23 people, majority students, were killed in a fire that tore through a religious school in Kuala Lumpur this morning.

"The Fire and Rescue department said the building management did apply for a fire safety permit, but that's about it".

According to reports, neighbors woke up to cries for help from the boys who were trapped inside the seminary. Police later revised down the death toll to 22 students and two teachers.

Singh said firefighters managed to rescue 14 other students and four teachers, and that six of the people saved had been hospitalized in critical condition. "If it was, the fire will need about 30 minutes to go that big", he told The Malaysian Insight, adding that this blaze spread very quickly. He added that it was one of the worst fire tragedies the country has seen in over 20 years.

Two school wardens were among the dead. "Just when you think they're going to stop unloading the van, more brought out", Sumisha Naidu, a correspondent for Channel News Asia, said in a Twitter post.

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The Islamic "tahfiz" boarding school, where students learn to memorise the Koran, is in the Jalan Datuk Keramat area of the city. They said the bodies were found piled on each other. suggesting they died trying to flee the fire.

The fire, which broke out at the three-story school, was most likely caused by either an electric short circuit or a mosquito zapper.

Officials said they were unable to leave through the only door to the dormitory, as it was on fire.

They are unregulated by the education ministry, being the responsibility of the religious department.

"We will take care of the process right up to their burials as our way of expressing our sympathies to the families", Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told the Malaysian newspaper. "It really does not make sense for so many to die".