More than 20 people are believed to have died in a fire at a building in Osaka, western Japan, and police are investigating a domestic fire as a possible cause.
TOKYO – More than 20 people were feared dead after a fire broke out in a building in Osaka, western Japan on Friday, officials said, and police were investigating a house fire as a possible cause.
The fire started on the fourth floor of an eight-story building in the main commercial, commercial and entertainment area of Kitashinchi, said Akira Kishimoto, head of the Osaka Fire Department.
Twenty-seven people were found in a state of cardiac arrest and another woman was injured, Kishimoto said. The woman was conscious and fell down an air ladder from a sixth-floor window and was being treated at a hospital.
On Friday, 19 people were pronounced dead and three more were resuscitated, NHK National Television and other media reported. The Japanese authorities refused to confirm these reports.
A doctor at one of the hospitals treating the victims said he believed many of them died after inhaling carbon monoxide as they had limited external injuries.
Cabinet Secretary-General Hirokazu Matsuno said “many people have died or are in a state of heart and lung failure,” without revealing the exact number. Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura offered his condolences.
The building houses an internal medicine clinic, an English school and other businesses. Many of the victims are believed to be visitors to the fourth-floor clinic, fire department officials said.
The cause of the fire and other details were not immediately known. Osaka police said they were investigating whether the fire was caused by a fire or an accident.
According to media reports, police were looking for a man whose witnesses saw him carrying a paper bag from which an unidentified liquid was dripping. Police declined to confirm these reports.
NHK said an outpatient woman at the clinic reception saw the man, while another close person said the fire started shortly after she put the leaked bag on the ground.
People on other floors of the building are believed to have been evacuated safely, Kishimoto said.
NHK cited a witness who said he heard the voice of a woman coming from the fourth floor calling for help. Another witness told Asahi TV that he saw flames and smoke coming out of the fourth floor windows when he came out after feeling a commotion.
A total of 70 firefighters mobilized to fight the blaze, most of which was extinguished in about 30 minutes after an emergency call, authorities said.
In 2019, in the Kyoto animation studio, an attacker broke into the building and set it on fire, killing 36 people and injuring more than 30 others. The incident shocked Japan and caused an outpouring of pain among anime fans around the world. In 2001, a deliberate fire in Tokyo’s Kabukicho Entertainment District killed 44 people, the worst known case of a domestic fire in the country in modern times.