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Culture

Japanese anime studio fire kills 33, mostly women, in suspected arson

Police have a suspect in custody in Thursday's blaze at Kyoto Animation.

JAPAN-FIRE

Smoke billows out of Kyoto Animation's 1st Studio building in Fujimi Ward, Kyoto, Japan, on Thursday.

Jiji Press / AFP/Getty Images

A suspected arson attack on a Japanese anime studio killed 33 people and left dozens injured Thursday, a fire official told the Associated Press. Someone allegedly poured gasoline in several parts of Kyoto Animation's 1st Studio building in Fujimi Ward, Kyoto, before igniting it around 10:30 a.m. local time, according to The Guardian.

Twenty of the victims were women, The New York Times reported Friday. Kyoto Animation -- KyoAni to its fans -- had sought to hire more women as a policy.  

Around 70 people were in the building when the fire started, state broadcaster NHK reported. Firefighters found 20 bodies on the third floor and on the stairs to the roof, 11 bodies on the second floor and two bodies on the first floor, an official said. 

A suspect, a 41-year-old man, was detained and taken to the hospital with injuries. He was reportedly heard saying "die" or "drop dead" as he started the fire. 

His relationship to the studio isn't clear, but the Associated Press reported that survivors who saw him said he wasn't a co-worker. Local reports suggest he ran out of the building after the fire started, but collapsed.

"A person with singed hair was lying down and there were bloody footprints," a local woman told news agency Kyodo.

Kyoto Animation was founded in 1981 and is behind anime like K-On, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, A Silent Voice and Clannad. Its president, Hideaki Hatta, told the media that the company had been emailed anonymous death threats in the past but didn't link them to this attack.

"My heart is in extreme pain. Why on Earth did such violence have to be used?" he said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was among many expressing sorrow on Twitter.

"I'm speechless. I pray for the souls of those who have passed away," he wrote. "I would like to express my condolences to all of the injured and wish them a speedy recovery."

Originally published July 18 at 2:07 a.m. PT.
Update, July 19, 5:50 a.m. PT: Adds report that 20 of the victims were women.