KYOTO, Japan — At least 23 people are feared dead and 36 injured in a suspected arson attack at a renowned animation studio in the Japanese city of Kyoto Thursday, fire officials said.
The Kyoto Fire department confirmed that 13 people have died and more than ten people were found with “no vital signs” inside the building, which belonged to the Kyoto Animation Co.
In Japan, officials commonly use this term to signify victims have died but their deaths have not yet been officially certified.
Kyoto police said that a man poured what appeared to be gasoline around the studio and set it on fire. The 41-year-old suspect was taken into police custody.
The fire broke out at about 10:30 a.m. local time on Thursday (9:30 p.m. ET) in the company’s 1st Studio building in Kyoto’s Fushimi-ku district. Police said a resident reported hearing a sound like an explosion coming from the studio.
About 48 fire engines have been dispatched to the area and are currently trying to get the fire under control.
Footage from the scene shows thick smoke billowing out of the four-story building, which is located in a residential area several kilometers south of Kyoto Station, as firefighters worked to douse the flames.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tweeted that he was left speechless at the “gruesomeness of the crime,” and offered condolences to victims.
Founded in 1981, Kyoto Animation — known as KyoAni — produces animations and publishes anime novels, comics and books, according to its website. Among Japan’s most well known studios, its most famous works include “Free!”, manga series “K-On!”, the anime TV adaptation of “Haruhi Suzumiya” and “Violet Evergarden” which Netflix picked up in 2018.
The company’s philosophy as posted on its website includes keeping a “humanitarian” corporate culture and believes that “promoting the growth of people is equal to creating the brightness of works.”
There was an outpouring of grief on Twitter Thursday with fans of the studio offering their condolences.
This is a developing story.