24 dead in arson attack at Japan studio
Published: 02:24 PM, 18 July 2019
A man was seen pouring petrol inside the studio building before the fire started; Photo: Collected
At least 24 people are feared dead in a suspected arson attack on an animation company in the Japanese city of Kyoto on Thursday, a fire department official told AFP.
The official said one person had been found on the second floor of the building “in cardio-respiratory arrest,” a term used in Japan to signify a victim’s death before it is officially certified.
The official said “10 or more people” were found in the same condition on the stairs from the second floor to the roof, bringing the total toll in the blaze so far to at least 24.
A man is suspected of starting the fire early Thursday. He is among those injured in a hospital.
Earlier, authorities have confirmed seven dead and six others presumed dead.
“Twelve people were found in cardio-respiratory arrest on the ground and first floor,” a fire department official told AFP, using a phrase commonly employed in Japan to signify victims have died but their deaths have not yet been officially certified.
“Also, several other people appeared to have failed to escape on the second floor,” he added.
Officials said 35 people had been injured in the fire, 10 of whom were in serious condition, and local media said around 70 people were believed to have been in the building when the fire started.
“Rescue operations are continuing, and we are trying to bring out several victims who are trapped inside - including ones who may not be able to move by themselves,” a second fire department spokesman said.
“We can’t immediately determine their condition,” he said.
The fire department said it began receiving calls around 10:35 am (0135 GMT) about the fire at the studio belonging to Kyoto Animation.
“Callers reported having heard a loud explosion from the first floor of Kyoto Animation and seeing smoke,” a fire department spokesman said.
Police said they were still investigating the cause of the fire but it was a suspected arson attack.
“A man threw a liquid and set fire to it,” a Kyoto prefectural police spokesman told AFP.
Public broadcaster NHK reported that a man had been detained in connection with the blaze and was later taken to hospital for treatment.
It reported that the suspect had poured a gasoline-like substance around the building and said “drop dead” as he set fire to it.
Japan has a famously low crime rate, with violent crime very rare.
Arson is considered a serious crime and people convicted of deliberately setting fires in a country where many people still live in wooden houses can face the death penalty.
A man convicted of setting a fire that killed 16 people in Osaka in 2008 is currently on death row.
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