KUALA LUMPUR: A 29-year-old widow lost all three of her sons after they died in a blaze at a religious boarding school in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday (Sep 14).
Muhammad Syafid Haikal, 13, Muhammad Hafiz Iskandar, 11, and Muhammad Harris Ikhwan, 10, were among the 23 who were killed after a fire broke out on the top-floor dormitory of a three-storey building at the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah Religious Residential School.
Rosnani Mohd Nor, a cousin of the mother, told the Star newspaper that the family was still in shock.
She only discovered that the three boys were among the victims after their bodies were sent to the morgue at Hospital Kuala Lumpur for DNA testing and identification.
“Our family is grieving, especially the mother,” she said, adding that the boys’ father died eight years ago. “I haven’t seen her yet. I hope she will stay strong through this trial.”
Another relative, a cousin named Mas Aliza Ali Bapoo, told Bernama that her family had taken care of the three brothers since the boys’ father died.
Mas Aliza said her mother received a call on Wednesday from one of the boys, Muhammad Hafiz, asking the family to pick them up from the school.
“In the call, he said he wanted to go and when my mother pressed further, he said he wanted to come home for the holidays and asked us to take the three of them home,” Mas Aliza told reporters.
She and her mother were at the morgue on Thursday to claim the bodies of the three brothers.
"We planned to pick them up on Saturday but did not expect that all of them would perish today. We are too shocked. I feel the pain most, as I was the one handling their transport to and from the school since they began studying there in January," she said.
Nik Azlan Nik Abdul Kadir, who lost his 12-year-old son in the fire, hugged his sobbing wife outside the school on Thursday, and said he had seen his son only the previous evening.
"He was in a jovial mood - he loved studying here," he said.
Nik Azlan added that another of his sons had been "saved" as he had refused to attend school for the past two weeks.
An elderly woman seen weeping outside the hospital's morgue said she was mourning those who died in the blaze.
Mdm Hamidah Ibrahim, 63, said she knew the family of one of the victims. Although she has not seen them in years, she said she came to the hospital as soon as she heard the news.
Hamidah Ibrahim, 63, knows a victim's family but hasn't seen them in years. Grief-stricken, she came to the morgue as soon as she heard. pic.twitter.com/rQLbc6y8h7— Sumisha Naidu (@SumishaCNA) September 14, 2017
"My family is not from the school ... But I feel so much love for them. As a mother, I grieve with the parents as well. These children were so young, I feel the pain in my soul," she said.
Twenty-one students aged between six and 16 died in the fire, as well as two teachers who were also school wardens.
The deaths have sparked outrage in the country, after reports emerged that the only door at the school's dormitory had caught fire and that the windows had metal bars, leaving the victims trapped and unable to escape.
Fire department operations deputy director Soiman Jahid said on Thursday that the cause was likely to have been a short circuit or a mosquito repellent coil.
But the fire department said later that preliminary investigations have found that the fire was not caused by a short circuit.
Additional reporting by Sumisha Naidu and Melissa Goh