KYOTO (TR) – The number of persons feared dead now exceeds 20 following a suspected arson attack at Kyoto Animation Co. in Kyoto City on Thursday, authorities said, reports NHK (July 18).
Police and fire officials have confirmed 13 persons dead following the blaze, which started in Studio 1 of Kyoto Animation in Fushimi Ward at around 10:30 a.m. Most of the persons were found on the first and second floors of the structure.
An additional 10 more people have been found in a state of cardiopulmonary arrest — meaning they are showing no vital signs — on the third floor of the building and on the stairs that lead to the rooftop, which brings the total confirmed or presumed dead to more than 20.
Another 36 persons are injured, with 10 of them in serious condition, the officials said.
After receiving a distress call about “an explosion on the first floor” of the studio, thirty fire trucks from the Kyoto City Fire Department arrived at the scene to battle the blaze, which spread over the roughly 700 square meters of space in the three-floor reinforced concrete structure.
A witness told police that they saw an adult male spraying around a liquid that seemed to be gasoline inside the building and setting it ablaze. “Die!” he reportedly screamed as he carried out the act.
Police apprehended a 41-year-old man at the scene. He is currently receiving medical attention. Multiple knives and at least one hammer were found dropped at the scene, but it is not known if they belong to the man in custody, police said.
NHK also reported that a male customer at a gasoline station purchased 40 liters of gasoline at a station located about 500 meters from the studio around 30 minutes before the incident.
The customer told a station attendant that he was going to use the gasoline in “a power generator.” Police are attempting to confirm if that customer, who hauled the fuel away in a cart, is the same man who is in custody.
Kyoto Animation president Hideaki Hatta said that the company has received several threatening emails that said “people will die” in the past. The president said that the company contacted a lawyer after receiving each one.
At the time the fire broke out, there were more than 70 employees present inside the studio. The whereabouts of more than 10 of those employees remain unknown, the authorities said.
Update: NHK cites the Kyoto fire department in reporting that 33 persons have been confirmed dead.