A fire broke out in a psychiatric hospital in the Japanese city of Osaka, killing 27 people and police are investigating a possible arson after media reports that a man spilled liquid that fueled the fire.
The fire broke out on Friday around 10 a.m. on the fourth floor of an office building in a lively district of the western city, announced the public broadcaster NHK.
“Most of the people who have lost their lives could be medical workers or patients in the clinic. That is unbearable,” Yumiko Inoue, a doctor from a nearby hospital, told Reuters as they crossed the street from the charred Windows of the building looked up.
A man who looked like he was 50 or 60 years old was seen carrying a bag filled with liquid into the building, where he placed it near a heater and knocked it over, spilled the liquid and started the fire, reported Kyodo News.
Other media outlets said the man was believed to be a patient at the clinic and carried a bag of spilled fluid into the reception area before the fire broke out.
24 people have been confirmed dead, said NHK. An official with the Osaka City Fire Department previously told Reuters that 27 people had suffered cardiopulmonary arrest, the term used in Japan, before a death was officially confirmed.
The fire was largely extinguished within 30 minutes after it hit a narrow, 20-square-meter room in the clinic, according to the NHK. The footage showed smoke pouring from the fourth floor windows and the roof of the building.
Located in a shopping and entertainment district not far from Osaka Central Station, the building also houses a beauty salon, clothing store and English-speaking school, NHK said.
“When I looked outside, I saw orange flames in the window on the fourth floor of the building. A woman waved from a window on the sixth floor to ask for help, ”a 36-year-old woman who works in a nearby office told Kyodo News.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida offered condolences and said the authorities are working to determine the cause.
The father of a doctor who ran the clinic couldn’t reach him on his cell phone, he told the Yomiuri newspaper.
“Around noon I heard the news of a fire on TV and was surprised. My wife was on the site, but we still don’t know what’s going on. I can’t get my son’s phone,” he said.
The clinic’s website was inaccessible, but an internet archive from earlier this year showed that patients were being treated for depression and panic to sleep apnea and anemia.
An arson attack on an animation studio in Kyoto city in 2019 killed more than 30 people and injured dozen.
Australian Associated Press