Youths charged with murder after fatal fire at Malaysian school

This file photo shows Malaysian Muslims carrying the coffin of a victim of the Darul Qur’an Ittifaqiyah religious school fire for burial at Raudhatul Sakinah cemetery in Kuala Lumpur on September 16, 2017. (File photo by AFP)
Updated 28 September 2017
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Youths charged with murder after fatal fire at Malaysian school

KUALA LUMPUR: Two Malaysian teenagers were charged with murder on Thursday, for setting fire to an Islamic boarding school that killed 23 people, mostly boys.
The fire in Kuala Lumpur on September 14 was the deadliest of its kind in two decades, and the tragedy sparked public outrage, with calls for greater safety and tougher regulation at religious schools.
The blaze had broken out in a top-floor dormitory at the three-story boarding school where most of the students were sleeping in bunk beds, with many of the windows barred by metal grilles.
The two accused were part of a group of seven youths, all male and aged between 12 and 18, who police said had started the fire after feuding with students from the boarding school. They lived in the neighborhood and did not attend the school.
Prosecutors declined to provide the suspects’ names or ages, citing Malaysia’s child protection laws, but said both the accused boys were minors.
“They are being tried jointly and are facing 23 counts of murder, one for each victim of the fire,” prosecuting lawyer Othman Abdullah told reporters outside a juvenile court in Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia carries a mandatory death penalty for murder, but authorities have said it will not apply to the youths as they were underage. They could instead face jail time, whipping, fines or detention at an approved school.
The two, along with four others, are also facing drug use charges. All but one were minors, while another youth was released due to insufficient evidence, Othman said.
Those charged had tested positive for drugs, including marijuana and methamphetamine, according to a charge sheet sighted by Reuters.
The court has set November 28 as the date for the next hearing, Othman said.


Four more die on Everest as traffic jams blamed for increasing risk

Updated 13 min 25 sec ago
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Four more die on Everest as traffic jams blamed for increasing risk

  • Photo shows dozens of climbers queuing for summit after short window of good weather leads to bottlenecks
  • Two Indians and a Nepali die on the Nepal side and an Austrian on the way down on the northern Tibetan side

KATHMANDU: A traffic jam of climbers in the Everest “death zone” was blamed for two of four new deaths reported Friday, heightening concerns that the drive for profits is trumping safety on the world’s highest peak.
Nepal has issued a record 381 permits costing $11,000 each for the current spring climbing season, bringing in much-needed money for the impoverished Himalayan country.
But a small window of suitable weather before the short season ends has in recent days triggered bottlenecks of hundreds of climbers wanting to achieve for many — although perhaps not for purists — the ultimate in mountaineering.
The four latest deaths reported on Friday, taking the toll from a deadly week on the overcrowded peak to eight, include two Indians and a Nepali on the Nepal side and an Austrian on the way down on the northern Tibetan side, officials and expedition organizers said.
Ang Tsering Sherpa, former president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, said that the weather window to summit this season was narrow, meaning that many teams had to wait to go up.
“Spending a long time above the death zone increases the risk of frostbite, altitude sickness and even death,” he said.
Kalpana Das, 52, reached the summit but died on Thursday afternoon while descending, as a huge number of climbers queued near the top. The other Indian, Nihal Bagwan, 27, also died on his way back from the summit.
“He was stuck in the traffic for more than 12 hours and was exhausted. Sherpa guides carried him down to Camp 4 but he breathed his last there,” said Keshav Paudel of Peak Promotion.
A 33-year-old Nepali guide died at the base camp on Friday after he was rescued from Camp 3 for falling sick.
Wednesday claimed the lives of an American and another Indian.
Donald Lynn Cash, 55, collapsed at the summit as he was taking photographs, while Anjali Kulkarni, also 55, died while descending after reaching the top.
Kulkarni’s expedition organizer, Arun Treks, said heavy traffic at the summit had delayed her descent and caused the tragedy.
“She had to wait for a long time to reach the summit and descend,” said Thupden Sherpa. “She couldn’t move down on her own and died as Sherpa guides brought her down.”
Pasang Tenje Sherpa, of Pioneer Adventure, told AFP that Cash collapsed on the summit and died close to Hillary Step as guides were bringing him back.
Last week, an Indian climber died and an Irish mountaineer went missing after he slipped and fell close to the summit and is presumed dead.
The Irish professor was in the same team as Saray Khumalo, 47, who this week became the first black African woman to climb Everest and who is hoping to conquer the highest summits on each of the seven continents.
Mountaineering in Nepal has become a lucrative business since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made the first ascent of Everest in 1953.
Most Everest hopefuls are escorted by a Nepali guide, meaning more than 750 climbers were expected to tread the same path to the top in the current season.
At least 140 others have been granted permits to scale Everest from the northern flank in Tibet, according to expedition operators. This could take the total past last year’s record of 807 people reaching the summit.
“About 550 climbers have summited the world tallest mountain by Thursday according to the data provided by expedition organizers to us,” said Mira Acharya, spokeswoman for Nepal’s Tourism Department
Many Himalayan mountains — including Everest — are at peak climbing season, with the window of good weather between late April and the end of May.
Eight other climbers have died on other 8,000-meter Himalayan peaks this season, while two are missing.
In 2015, 18 people were killed at the Everest base camp because of an avalanche triggered by a quake.
In happier news, two Sherpa widows, Furdiki Sherpa and Nima Doma Sherpa reached the summit of Everest on Thursday, their team coordinator confirmed.
The two want to force a rethink about the role of widows in their conservative community, after their husbands died on the world’s highest mountain.
“We want to climb Everest with a message for widows and single women. We are not less than anyone, we are capable of achieving anything,” Nima Doma said in an interview with AFP ahead of the expedition.
French climber Elisabeth Revol, who was dramatically rescued last year from Pakistan’s Mount Nanga Parbat, summited Lhotse Friday morning, a day after reaching the top of Everest.