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33 die in fire set at Kyoto animation studio

Updated: 2019-07-19 08:55
An aerial view shows firefighters battling fires at the site where a man started a fire after spraying a liquid at a three-story studio of Kyoto Animation Co in Kyoto, western Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo, July 18, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

TOKYO-A Japanese fire official says the death toll from the Kyoto Animation studio fire is now 33 and nobody else is believed to be still missing.

Kyoto fire department official Kazuhiro Hayashi says 36 others have been injured, 10 of them critically.

Hayashi says firefighters found the largest number of victims on the top floor of the three-story building, including some who had collapsed on the stairs leading to the roof. Two of the dead were found on the first floor, 11 on the second and 20 on the third floor.

Japanese media reports said the suspect may have set the fire at the front door, forcing people to try to find other exits and slowing their escape.

The outcome makes the case the deadliest fire since a 2001 fire that killed 44 in Tokyo's Kabukicho entertainment district.

The suspect was injured and is in a hospital.

Kyoto police said the suspect was injured and taken to a hospital. They are investigating the man, 41, who is not a company employee, on suspicion of arson, police said.

Most were workers at Kyoto Animation, known for megahit stories featuring high school girls, with places featured in the stories even becoming "pilgrimage sites" for fans.

Japan's 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."

The fire department said it began receiving calls about the fire around 10:35 am. The blaze started in the three-story building in Japan's ancient capital after the suspect sprayed an unidentified liquid accelerant, Kyoto prefectural police and fire officials said.

An aerial view shows firefighters battling the fires at a three-story studio of Kyoto Animation Co in Kyoto, western Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 18, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

Kyoto Animation's president, Hideaki Hatta, told reporters "there have been emails with death threats", without giving further details. He said the gutted building was "the core of the company", which has produced several well-known television anime series including The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and K-ON!

In China, Kyoto Animation's Doraemon and Crayon Shin-chan series are well known.

"It's unbearable that those who have led Japan's animation industry were hurt and lost their lives," Hatta said.

A witness who saw the suspect being approached by police told Japanese networks that the man admitted spreading gasoline and setting a fire with a lighter. She told NHK public television that the man had burns on his arms and legs and that he was angrily complaining that something of his had been "stolen", possibly by the company. NHK footage also showed sharp knives police had found at the scene, though it was not clear if they belonged to the suspect.

Survivors said the attacker was not their colleague and that he was screaming "(You) die!" when he dumped the liquid and started the fire, according to Japanese media reports. They said some survivors were splashed with the liquid.

Kyoto Animation, better known as KyoAni, was founded in 1981 as an animation and comic book production studio, and its hits include Lucky Star. The company does not have a major presence outside Japan, though it was hired for secondary animation work on a 1998 Pokemon feature and a Winnie the Pooh video seen abroad.

Fire department officials said more than 70 people were in the building at the time of the fire and many of them ran outside.

An online fundraiser organized by an anime licensing firm in the United States had raised over $220,000 by Thursday night.

Wang Xu in Tokyo contributed to this story.

AP - China Daily

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