At least 33 people were killed after a man allegedly set fire to an animation studio in Japan’s Kyoto city on Thursday (July 18) trapping most victims inside, local media reported citing police and fire department officials.
Of the 36 people injured in the fire, 10 were reported to be in serious condition.
Some 70 people were in the studio when the fire broke out.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tweeted that the loss of so many lives in an arson attack is appalling.
Fire fighters received calls around 10.35am about a big fire at the Kyoto Animation Co located in a residential area.
Neighbours said they heard two or three explosions before a fire ripped through the three-storey building.
Witnesses said a 41-year-old man poured a flammable liquid in front of the building, set it on fire and ran inside the studio screaming ‘Die.”
An old woman, who was among the first to notice the fire, took the suspected arsonist for a fire victim. She described him as a tall and heavily built man looking very weak after suffering burns to one leg and hands.
The woman immediately used a garden hose to spray water on him and called an ambulance.
Before the ambulance arrived, police came and started asking him why he ran into the studio and set it on fire.
According to the woman, the suspect told police he was “ripped off” by the company.
Police have detained the unnamed suspect who is being treated for burn injuries in a local hospital.
If convicted, the suspect may face death penalty.
Another man found guilty of setting fire to a building in Osaka 11 years ago killing some 16 people is on death row.
A woman helped a fire victim escape from the second floor of the building by placing a ladder at his office window.
A third witness said multiple blasts knocked out windows before the fire engulfed the building. Several office windows were on flames hampering rescue efforts.
Fire-fighters found most bodies on the second floor of the building.
As panicked studio employees ran out of the building, some of them got splashed with the flammable liquid the suspected arsonist had dumped inside and outside the studio.
Kyoto Animation, also known as KyoAni, has produced a number of popular TV anime series.
While most animation companies are located in Tokyo, KyoAni has remained in the cultural city of Kyoto since the studio was founded in the 1980s.