At least 27 people were killed after a blaze gutted a mental health clinic in a commercial building in the Japanese city of Osaka yesterday, local media said, with police reportedly considering it a possible arson case.
The fire broke out mid-morning and raged for half an hour on the fourth floor of the clinic, which also provided general medical care.
The clinic’s charred interior was visible through burnt-out window frames as firefighters put up a tarpaulin to block the scene from view.
Public broadcaster NHK and other major Japanese media said 24 people had died, citing local police, who did not immediately confirm the toll.
Earlier yesterday an Osaka fire department official said that 27 people are feared dead in the blaze.
In Japan, only a doctor can officially certify a death.
“The municipal fire department is investigating the cause of the fire. I have received a report that Osaka police is investigating the fire as possible arson,” regional governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said on Twitter.
Japanese media said a man in his 50s or 60s had allegedly dispersed a liquid to start the blaze.
The man believed to have set the fire was taken to hospital and is in critical condition, NHK said.
“Most of the people who lost their lives could be medical workers or patients at the clinic. This is unbearable,” Yumiko Inoue, a doctor from a nearby hospital, told Reuters as she looked up at the building’s charred windows from across the street.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida offered his “sincere condolences” to the victims and sympathy to those injured in the incident.
Dozens of fire engines rushed to the scene of the blaze, which occurred in a business area near Kitashinchi train station in the city in western Japan.
Osaka, a major economic hub, is Japan’s second-biggest metropolis after the greater Tokyo region.
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