33 Dead in Arson Attack at Kyoto Japan
Japan – At least 33 people have been killed and many more injured after a man set fire to an animation studio in the Japanese city of Kyoto on Thursday morning. Emergency authorities say the death toll is likely to be final with no more people missing, while there are reports that the suspect had some sort of financial grievance against the company.
According to police, the man ran into the three-storey studios and offices of Kyoto Animation Co. shortly before 10.30am. Witnesses say he sprayed a liquid around the ground floor of the building and set fire to it and was shouting “Go die”. Police say that around 70 people were in the building when the fire broke out. People living nearby told local media that they heard a series of explosions and saw thick black smoke billowing out of broken windows.
“A person with singed hair was lying down and there were bloody footprints”, a local resident told Kyodo News. A 16-year-old schoolgirl said: “Five or six people were lying on benches or blue sheets looking limp, and among them was a woman bleeding from her head. Neighbours were bringing blocks of ice and drinks for the people with burns.
“Victims of the fire were wrapped in what looked like aluminium foil before being taken to the ambulances, with their faces and hands stained with soot,” she said. “They were given oxygen from cylinders”. “I heard a bang and the black smoke and the burning smell were awful”, said the manager of a nearby hairdresser.
Another witness told national broadcaster that he heard two loud explosions, adding, “The fire was raging hard. I saw red flames flaring”. Other local residents put a ladder against the side of the building to help a man escape from one of the upper stories of the building.
Television footage from helicopters showed firefighters in breathing apparatus entering the still-smoking structure and others directing hoses through the open windows. The exterior of the 7,500-square-foot building – which only had one ground-floor exit – was extensively charred. Around 35 fire engines were mobilised to fight the blaze and local residents were kept back by a police cordon. Firefighters were also seen carrying bodies wrapped in blankets out of the building.
Many of the bodies were found on internal stairs leading from the second storey of the building to the roof and it is likely that many of the victims died of smoke inhalation as they were trying to flee. Police have also recovered a number of knives from the scene. A spokesman for the local fire department told AFP, “Callers reported having heard a loud explosion from the first floor of Kyoto Animation and seeing smoke”.
Police have detained a 41-year-old man who has admitted to starting the fire. The man has not been identified, but he sustained injuries in the blaze and is being treated in hospital. Police detained the man after he collapsed on the doorstep of a local resident, who was unaware that he was responsible for the blaze and was trying to treat him for extensive burns to his arms, chest and legs.
The woman told the Asahi newspaper that police officers suddenly surrounded the man and asked him why he had entered the animation studio and set it on fire. She said it was hard to make out all the man’s words as he was injured, but she did hear him tell police: “They ripped me off”. A suspect sprayed an unidentified liquid to accelerate the blaze, Kyoto prefectural police and fire department officials said
Police have not commented on the man’s motive but they have confirmed that they are treating the case as arson. The suspect’s injuries are not believed to be life-threatening. The animation company, founded in 1981 and better known in the industry as KyoAni, is behind a number of popular animated programmes for Japanese television, including K-On! and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and Lucky Star. Netflix has screened the studio’s Violet Evergarden.
Industry insiders say KyoAni is one of the more pleasant places to work within Japan’s anime business – which is famously high-pressure, poorly paid and has a notoriously high turn-over of staff. The company has not issued a statement on the incident, but police have stated that the man is not a current or the former employee of the company.
Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, has expressed his shock at the incident, which he described as an “arson murder spree”. I’m speechless”, he said. “I pray for the souls of those who have passed away. I would like to express my condolences to all the injured and wish them a speedy recovery”.
There has already been speculation on social media that the attacker may have been an “otaku”, the pejorative term for socially awkward “nerds” who are often avid consumers of anime and manga comic books.
An alternative theory being suggested is that he is a “hikikomori”, or social recluse. In May, a man attacked a group of primary school children in the Tokyo suburb of Kawasaki with knives. He killed one girl, the parent of another child and injured 13 other children before killing himself by stabbing himself in the throat.