Arson attack at Japan anime studio kills 26

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Photo taken July 18, 2019, from a Kyodo News helicopter shows the three-story studio of Kyoto Animation Co. in Kyoto after a man started a fire there. The studio is known for producing the popular TV animation series "K-On!!" and "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya." (Kyodo) ==Kyodo (Photo by Kyodo News via Getty Images)

At least 23 people have died with dozens injured after a suspected arson attack at an animation studio in Kyoto, Japan, local emergency officials have said.

Local media quoted police as saying a man broke into the Kyoto Animation Company studio on Thursday morning. Police say the suspect, a 41-year-old, sprayed petrol before igniting it.

Some people still remain unaccounted for, reports say.

The suspect has been detained and taken to the hospital with injuries.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the incident was “too appalling for words” and offered condolences to those affected.

The incidence
The fire broke out at the three-storey building at around 10:30 local time (01:35 GMT) on Thursday. Rescue operations are still on going.

Police also found knives at the scene, report says.

The man had been heard saying “drop dead” as he set fire to the building.

It is not clear what relationship the suspect may have had with the company.

Eyewitnesses described a loud explosion followed by an inferno that rapidly engulfed the building.

It is feared more victims could still be on the top floor, which is filled with thick smoke.

“Several other people appeared to have failed to escape on the second floor,” a fire department spokesman said.

Japanese officials said at least 23 people were dead or “in cardio-pulmonary arrest”, a formulation routinely used in Japan for victims who have died but whose deaths have not yet been officially confirmed.

A fire official told reporters that at least 10 victims had been found on the stairs linking the second floor to the roof.

Some 36 people are in hospital, some in critical condition.

About 70 people were in the building when the fire started, fire officials said.

The suspect
Latest reports say the man is not a former employee and does not have any obvious connection to the studio.

Japanese newspaper reports say the suspect ran away from the building towards a nearby station after the fire started but fell to the ground.

Some of the reports say he was pursued by employees of Kyoto Animation.

“A person with singed hair was lying down and there were bloody footprints,” a 59-year-old woman living nearby reported.

He was injured and was being treated in hospital, so police could not immediately question him.

Kyoto animation studio
Kyoto Animation, known as KyoAni, was founded in 1981 and has produced popular animation shows including “K-On” and “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya”.

The studio also released a standalone feature anime A Silent Voice in 2016.

One of KyoAni’s series, Evergarden, was picked up by Netflix for a global market.

The studio is also known for paying its animators a regular salary, breaking with the industry’s standard of paying per frame which is seen as putting extreme pressure on staff.

Fans’ reactions
On social media, many fans have been expressing their shock and posting pictures of their favourite KyoAni shows.

A GoFundMe campaign titled “Help KyoAni Heal” has also been started, with more than $130,000 (£105,000) raised in three hours.

Voiceover artist SungWon Cho, who works on anime films, was among those to react.

“I’m horrified to hear about Kyoto Animation, that someone could do something so horrible to people who have brought so much joy is absolutely sickening,” he tweeted

Sentai Filmworks, a US licensing firm specialising in Japanese anime, also posted, as did Honey’s Anime, an anime fan site.

“Our hearts and thoughts are with Kyoto Animation”

“We’d like to send our immediate condolences to those affected by the recent accident at Kyoto Animation Studio. We are truly saddened by this news.” they tweeted.

Fans have also been sharing images of Kyoto Animation’s work.

 

Nneka Ukachukwu