NIIGATA (TR) – Three bodies were found on Sunday amid the remains of an intense 15-meter-high blaze that burned down two buildings in Sado City.
Niigata police said the fire broke out from a mixed-use 108-square-meter building featuring a residence above a shop, and spread to a nearby two-story wooden building roughly 57 square meters large, at around 4:50 a.m. in the Ryotsuebisu area, the Sankei Shimbun reports (July 3).
Police are rushing to confirm the identities of the three bodies, which they believe are Masao Utsumi, 64, his mother Asa, 94, and eldest son Masayoshi, 13, in second-grade middle school, since the family lives in the concrete mixed-use building and their whereabouts are still unknown.
An investigation is looking into the cause of the fire, which broke out during rain and according to TV Asahi took about an hour and 40 minutes to extinguish.
A body was found on the second floor of the mixed-use building, and another near its entrance on the street. A car parked on the premise was completely burned down.
A male 49-year-old worker of a ryokan inn opposite the mixed-use building said he saw flames soar as high as 15 meters, the heat so intense it deformed the ryokan’s plastic sign. He heard the car make a huge sound as it exploded.
“[The fire] was out of control by the time I came across it,” the ryokan worker said. “I felt afraid.”
A 75-year-old neighbor told the Asahi Shimbun that they saw someone trying to escape from the Utsumi family’s area.
“I tried to help them but I couldn’t, the fire was too intense,” the neighbor said, adding that Masayoshi was a “child who always gave nice, friendly greetings.”
A 79-year-old neighbor told the Asahi they heard “big explosive bangs as terrifying plumes of smoke and flames rose into the air.”