At least 26 people are dead and dozens injured after a suspected arson attack at an animation studio in Kyoto, Japan, local emergency officials have said.
Local media quoted police as saying a man broke into the Kyoto Animation Co studio on Thursday morning. Police say the suspect, a 41-year-old, sprayed petrol before igniting it.
Some people still remain unaccounted for, broadcaster NHK reported.
The suspect has been detained and was taken to hospital with injuries.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the incident was “too appalling for words” and offered condolences to those affected.
Police also found knives at the scene, say local media.
NHK said the man had been heard saying “drop dead” as he set fire to the building.
It is unclear if the suspect had any relationship with the company.
Eyewitnesses described a loud explosion followed by an inferno that rapidly engulfed the building.
“I saw some people with burns, covered with something. They were rushed to the ambulance,” one neighbour said.
Firefighters found 10 of the victims on the stairs linking the second floor to the roof and it is feared more victims could still be on the top floor.
“Several other people appeared to have failed to escape on the second floor,” a fire department spokesman told AFP.
Japanese officials said the victims were dead or “in cardio-pulmonary arrest” – a formulation routinely used in Japan for victims who have died but whose deaths have not yet been officially confirmed.
Some 36 people are in hospital, some in a critical condition, reports say. About 70 people were in the building when the fire started, fire officials say.
Latest reports say the man is not a former employee and does not have any obvious connection to the studio.
Japanese newspaper reports said the suspect ran away from the building towards a nearby station after the fire started but fell to the ground.
Some of the reports said he was pursued by employees of Kyoto Animation.
“A person with singed hair was lying down and there were bloody footprints,” a 59-year-old woman living nearby told news agency Kyodo.
“He seemed to be in pain, irritated and suffering, but also angry as if he was resentful,” a neighbour said.
The suspect was injured and was being treated in hospital, so police could not immediately question him, broadcaster NHK said.
Kyoto Animation, known as KyoAni, was founded in 1981 and has produced popular animation shows including “K-On” and “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya”.
The studio also released a standalone feature anime A Silent Voice in 2016.
One of KyoAni’s series, Evergarden, was picked up by Netflix for a global market.
It also publishes many popular graphic novels mainly about teenage school life.
The studio is also known for paying its animators a regular salary, breaking with the industry’s standard of paying per frame which is seen as putting extreme pressure on staff.
Source: BBC News