Over 20 Feared Dead or Presumed Dead in Arson at Japan Studio

July 18, 2019 Updated: July 18, 2019

TOKYO—Over 20 people were feared dead and dozens more either unconscious, hurt, or missing in a suspected case of arson at an animation studio in the Japanese city of Kyoto on Thursday, July 18, the local fire department said.

Public broadcaster NHK said police had taken a 41-year-old man into custody who allegedly shouted “Die!” as he poured what appeared to be gasoline around the three-story building of Kyoto Animation shortly after 10 a.m.

The man was injured and was being treated at a hospital, preventing police from questioning him, NHK said.

Kyoto Animation Co. fire
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, on July 18, 2019. (Kyodo/Reuters)

TV footage showed white and black smoke billowing out of the windows of the studio’s building. The studio produces popular series such as the “Sound! Euphonium”, and its “Free! Road to the World—The Dream” movie is due for release this month.

The casualties included seven confirmed dead, six with no vital signs, and another 10 or so people found unconscious, a Kyoto city fire department official told Reuters.

He says firefighters found more than 10 people presumed dead on the top floor of a three-story building, some of them collapsed on the stairs leading to the roof.

Another 36 have been injured, 10 of them seriously, he said.

Kyoto Animation studio in Kyoto, Japan
Smoke billows from a fire at the Kyoto Animation studio in Kyoto, Japan July 18, 2019. (INSTAGRAM/@XRAY_RAIX/REUTERS)

“I heard the sound of fire engines and stepped outside my house, and saw big flames spewing out of the building,” NHK quoted a 16-year-old boy as saying.

“Fire department officials were trying to rescue the injured in a nearby park but it seemed like there weren’t enough of them,” he told NHK.

The fire department official said earlier that some 30 people believed to have been in the building at the time could not be reached.

Kyoto police declined to comment.

Crime In Japan

Violent crime is relatively rare in Japan but occasional high-profile incidents have shocked the nation.

Less than two months ago, a knife-wielding man slashed at a group of schoolgirls at a bus stop in Kawasaki, a city just south of Tokyo, killing one girl and the father of another student, while injuring more than a dozen other children.

In 2016, a man armed with a knife broke into a facility for the disabled in a small town near Tokyo and killed 19 patients in their sleep.

Satoshi Uematsu, the suspect of Tuesday’s knife attack at a home for the mentally disabled, sits inside a police van as he leaves a police station in Sagamihara, outside Tokyo to be sent to prosecutors on July 27, 2016. (Naohiko Hatta/Kyodo News via AP)

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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