A suspected arson attack at an animation production company in Japan yesterday killed 33 people and injured dozens, after a man reportedly doused the building with flammable liquid and shouted “drop dead.”
A motive for the apparent attack remained unclear hours after the blaze.
If arson is confirmed, the attack would be among the deadliest criminal acts in decades in Japan.
The fire gutted the three-story building in Kyoto that housed Kyoto Animation, the company behind famous anime television productions.
The incident sparked an outpouring of support from the industry and fans worldwide, including a viral fundraising campaign.
Late last night, a local fire department official said the toll stood at 33 dead.
“Of the 33, two were found on the ground floor, 11 on the second and 20 on the third and also on the staircases that lead to the rooftop,” the official said.
Another 36 people were injured, including 10 who were in serious condition, he said, adding that all those inside the building during the blaze were now accounted for.
The horrific fire appeared to have been set yesterday morning, with the fire department saying it began receiving emergency calls about 10:30am.
“I saw people who were totally black or covered in blood, or who had suffered burns all over their body,” a 53-year-old woman told the Kyodo news agency.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took to Twitter to express his horror.
“It’s so dreadful that I’m lost for words,” he wrote. “I pray for those who passed away.”
Police said they were still investigating the cause of the fire, but that it was a suspected arson attack.
“A man threw a liquid and set fire to it,” a Kyoto prefectural police spokesman said.
Public broadcaster NHK reported that a man had been detained in connection with the blaze and was later taken to hospital. He reportedly suffered serious injuries in the fire.
NHK said the suspect had poured a gasoline-like substance around the building and said “drop dead” as he set fire to it.
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