TOKYO — At least 24 people died after a suspected arson attack on a medical clinic in the Japanese city of Osaka on Friday — one of the deadliest blazes in Japan in about two decades.
A fire broke out on the fourth floor of the eight-story building shortly before 10: 30 a.m. local time, and it was brought under control within 30 minutes, according to national broadcaster NHK. Rescue teams said 27 people were taken to the hospital showing no vital signs and by that evening, 24 were confirmed dead. It is not known if the three victims survived, although they were briefly revived.
The blaze reportedly began in a psychiatric care clinic on the fourth floor. Police said they suspect a man in his 50s or 60s who was a patient of the clinic and was seen holding a paper bag with liquid leaking from it, according to Mainichi Shimbun, a Japanese news outlet.
The suspect was in the hospital in critical condition as of Friday evening, according to Japanese media reports.
Those who died were believed to be attending on Friday morning a weekly program for those struggling with mental health issues to give them the resources to return to work, according to Japanese media reports. The victims’ ages ranged from 20s to 60s. The burned area was a relatively small space, approximately about 215 square feet, fire department officials said.
Friday’s blaze was one of the deadliest since a 2001 inferno at a building in Shinjuku, a district in Tokyo, killed 44 people. Among the most high-profile arson cases in Japan was a 2019 attack on the Kyoto Animation Studio’s building in western Japan, where 36 people were killed and another 34 were injured.
The multiuse building in Osaka is near the main train station in the Kitashinchi district, home to high-end bars and nightclubs. The building also houses a beauty salon and an English-language school.
Dozens of fire engines and ambulances arrived in response to the fire Friday morning. According to local media, the fire was contained to the fourth floor. However, one person was evacuated to the sixth floor.