World

Dozens dead in arson attack on anime studio in Kyoto

Japanese Prime Minister says attack on Kyoto Animation building 'too appalling for words'

TOKYO: A man shouted "die" as he doused an animation studio with fuel and set it ablaze in Japan yesterday, public broadcaster NHK said, killing at least 33 people in the nation's worst mass murder in nearly two decades.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the attack in the city of Kyoto "too appalling for words" on Twitter and offered condolences.

Police detained a 41-year-old man who had shouted "die" as he poured what appeared to be petrol around the three-storey Kyoto Animation building shortly after 10am (9am, Singapore time), public broadcaster NHK reported.

Thirty-three people were confirmed dead, an official for the Kyoto City Fire Department said.

Fire engulfed the building as white and black smoke billowed from its charred windows. It was Japan's worst mass killing since a suspected arson attack on a Tokyo building in 2001.

THICK SMOKE

Mr Shiro Misaki, a 47-year-old owner of a neighbourhood bar five minutes from studio, said he was driving nearby when he saw the thick smoke.

"Policemen were stopping traffic, and it was really hazy with smoke," he said. "Even after I got back to my restaurant, I could smell the smoke."

Mr Abe said the cause was arson.

"Today, many people were killed and wounded in an arson murder case in Kyoto," he said in a post on Twitter.

"It is too appalling for words."

Some of the victims were found in the studio, some on the third storey and others in a staircase leading up to the roof, the fire official said. Another 36 were injured, 10 of them seriously, the official said.

The suspected arsonist was injured and was being treated in hospital, so police could not question him, NHK said.

The studio produces popular series such as Hibike! Euphonium.

Its Free! Road To The World - The Dream movie is due for release this month.

"I am heartbroken," Mr Hideaki Hatta, the studio's chief executive, told reporters.

"It in unbearable that the people who helped carry Japan's animation industry were hurt and lost their lives in this way."

There was an outpouring of support for the studio on Japanese-language social media.

Many posted with the hashtag #PrayForKyoani - using an abbreviation for Kyoto Animation. - REUTERS

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