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Kyoto Animation studio fire: at least 33 dead after arson attack in Japan

Dozens more injured after ‘man threw liquid and set fire’ to building, police say

WT24 Desk

An arson attack on an anime studio in Japan has left at least 33 people dead and dozens injured in Japan’s worst mass murder in nearly two decades, The Guardian reports.

The perpetrator, who was also injured and has been taken into police custody, walked into the 1st Studio building of Kyoto Animation in Fujimi ward, Kyoto, at about 10.30am. He poured what is suspected to be petrol in multiple areas of the building before igniting it.

The prime minister, Shinzo Abe, called the attack “too appalling for words” and offered condolences.

There were more than 70 people in the building, which is Kyoto Animation’s main studio.

About 30 fire engines and ambulances went to the three-storey building after an explosion. Victims were taken to various hospitals in Kyoto.

The suspect, identified only as a 41-year-old male, was reportedly taken to hospital before being arrested by police, who said he had admitted starting the fire.

No motive for the arson attack has been reported, but Japan’s public broadcaster said he had shouted “drop dead” as he set the petrol alight.

Preliminary investigations by the police have uncovered no links between the subject, who has yet to be named, and the animation studio.

“A man threw liquid and set fire to it,” said a Kyoto prefectural police spokesman.

Emergency calls to the city fire department reported there had been an explosion on the ground floor, while later calls included people shouting: “Help us, the fire is climbing.”

Images shot from a helicopter for NHK showed smoke billowing from the top floor and fire crews still battling the blaze of the badly damaged building hours after it had started. Fire crews said there might be more people left in the building.

The fire department said the three floors of the building covered a total of 700 sq metres and that every storey had been damaged by the fire.

Professor Yuji Hasemi, an expert in fire safety and materials at Tokyo’s Waseda University, told NHK that a combination of poor ventilation, an abundance of paper used by artists and the large amount of petrol likely caused the fire to spread too quickly for people to escape. No fire escape stairs were visible in images of the building.

Violent crime is rare in Japan, though it is not unknown. In July 2016, a mass stabbing at a care home by a former employee killed 16 and injured more. In September 2001, a fire at a building in the Kabukicho entertainment district of central Tokyo killed 44. Arson was suspected, but nobody was ever charged, meaning the Kyoto Animation attack is the worst confirmed mass murder in Japan’s post-war history.

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