Monday 16 September 2019

Man shouted 'die' and 'doused animation studio with fuel' as 33 killed in arson blaze

Terror: Smoke billows from a three-storey building of Kyoto Animation in western Japan yesterday. Photo: Kyodo News, via AP
Terror: Smoke billows from a three-storey building of Kyoto Animation in western Japan yesterday. Photo: Kyodo News, via AP

Kiyoshi Takenaka

A man shouted "die" as he doused an animation studio with fuel and set it ablaze in Japan yesterday, public broadcaster NHK said, killing at least 33 people in the nation's worst mass murder in nearly two decades.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the attack in the city of Kyoto - the latest grisly killing in a nation widely known for its low crime rates - "too appalling for words" on Twitter and offered condolences.

Police detained a 41-year-old man who had shouted "die" as he poured what appeared to be petrol around the three-storey Kyoto Animation building shortly after 10am local time.

Some 33 people were confirmed dead, an official for the Kyoto City Fire Department said.

Fire engulfed the building as white and black smoke billowed from its charred windows. It was Japan's worst mass killing since a suspected arson attack on a Tokyo building in 2001.

Shiro Misaki, a 47-year-old owner of a neighbourhood bar five minutes from the studio, said he was driving nearby when he saw the thick smoke.

"Policemen were stopping traffic and it was really hazy with smoke," he said. "Even after I got back to my restaurant I could smell the smoke."

The prime minister said the cause was arson. "Today, many people were killed and wounded in an arson murder case in Kyoto," Mr Abe said.

Some of the victims were found in the studio, some on the third floor and others in a staircase leading up to the roof, the fire official said. Another 36 were injured, 10 of them seriously, the official said.

The suspected arsonist was injured and was being treated in hospital, so police could not question him, NHK said.

"I am heartbroken," Hideaki Hatta, the studio's chief executive told reporters.

"It in unbearable that the people who helped carry Japan's animation industry were hurt and lost their lives in this way."

The studio has an outsized impact on Japan's animation industry and Tokyo-based film commentator Yuichi Maeda said: "It has a huge presence in animation here. To have this many die at once will be a huge blow to the industry."

Irish Independent

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