The pre-dawn blaze that engulfed a religious school in Jalan Datuk Keramat here today is the biggest and deadliest yet, said a local resident. (Pix by ROSDAN WAHID)

KUALA LUMPUR: The pre-dawn blaze that engulfed a religious school in Jalan Datuk Keramat here today is the biggest and deadliest yet, said a local resident.

Halim Sudin, 52, said the last fire in the area occurred more than 25 years ago.

“The is the worst fire we have seen so far. So many lives were lost.

“The last fire was big and burned down a squatter settlement nearby, but no lives were lost,” he told the New Straits Times today.

He said the land on which the school was built was bought by a local resident, who donated it to the Federal Territory Islamic Religious Department (Jawi).

“The resident wanted Jawi to build a tahfiz (religious) school here.

“Talks about building the school began eight years ago but due to insufficient funds, the plan was put on hold until much later,” he said.

Halim said the school posed no problems to the neighbourhood since it began operations three years ago.

“This is quite shocking. We have never heard of such incidents in the past.

“The fire could have been caused by a short circuit — we don't know. They are children and they may not know much about electrical safety. Anything could’ve happened,” he said.

Halim said neighbours tried to rescue the victims while waiting for the fire teams to arrive.

“The fire became to big by the time we reached the stairway. It was the only way to reach the students.

“We couldn’t do anything but to try and catch those jumping out of the second floor windows.

“Some of them were on fire when they landed on the ground,” he recalled.

Halim said the pupils had no choice but to jump because of the raging fire and intense heat.

Halim, who has lived here since 1965, said he enjoyed the presence of the children playing outside after school.

“It is very sad to know that their lives have been taken away by the fire today.”

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