24 dead after potentially arson attack in Japanese clinic

The toll is particularly heavy. At least 24 people were killed in a fire on Friday in a clinic in a small commercial building in the heart of Osaka, western Japan, local media said, with police examining a “potentially criminal” lead .

At least 24 people were killed in a fire on Friday in a clinic in a small commercial building.
At least 24 people were killed in a fire on Friday in a clinic in a small commercial building. – Mami Nagaoki / AP / SIPA

In the early evening (local time), mainstream Japanese media spoke of 24 confirmed deaths (14 men and 10 women, according to the NHK public broadcaster) and three people resuscitated. The fire, which raged in a restricted area, was reported shortly after 10:15 a.m. (01:15 GMT) on the third floor of the building and was extinguished after half an hour, a firefighter spokesperson said. .

70 fire trucks mobilized

Masakatsu Shinozaki, 74, who owns a shop opposite the damaged building, told AFP that he saw thick smoke billowing from the windows. “I saw a woman screaming for help from the sixth floor. I did not realize that there were so many people in the building, ”he said. “The fire is really scary. He takes everything from you ”.

Some 70 fire trucks were on site by midday. TV channels showed dozens of firefighters hard at work inside and in front of this narrow office building, the stricken third floor of which was visible by its smashed and blackened windows.

The blazed space hosted a clinic providing psychiatric and general care, according to local media. The cause of the incident was not yet determined and was under investigation, Osaka police told AFP.

“Potentially criminal”

Local media quickly reported that investigators suspected arson, relying on police sources. “I have been notified that the Osaka police are investigating a potentially arson attack,” Hirofumi Yoshimura, the governor of the department of Osaka, the second largest economic center in Japan after that of greater Tokyo, confirmed in a tweet.

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According to several local media, a man allegedly spilled flammable liquid on the spot. Most of the victims are said to have died poisoned by carbon monoxide fumes. A young woman who witnessed the fire told public broadcaster NHK that she saw a woman trapped on the floor where the fire started.

“She leaned (out a window) and said things like + Please help me + (…) She seemed very weak. She may have inhaled a significant amount of smoke, ”she said. “There was a lot of black smoke (…), there was also a very strong smell,” a middle-aged woman, another witness to the fire, told NHK.

Condolences to the victims

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida offered his condolences to the victims. “We need to shed light on this horrible case, clarify why and how it happened. And we need to take action to prevent this from happening again, ”Kishida said. Fatal fires are infrequent in Japan, which has strict building standards, and violent crime is rare as well.

A year ago, a man was charged with murder following an arson attack in July 2019 at an animation studio in Kyoto (west) that left 36 people dead, the deadliest crime in Japan in decades. decades. In 2008, an arson attack on a video rental store in Osaka left 16 people dead. The perpetrator of the attack was sentenced to death.

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