Twenty-seven people were feared dead after a fire broke out in a building in Osaka in western Japan, fire department officials said on Friday. Police are investigating arson as a possible cause.
The fire started on the fourth floor of an eight-storey building in the shopping and entertainment area of Kitashinchi, Osaka city fire department official Akira Kishimoto said.
Twenty-eight people were affected, 27 of whom were found in a state of cardiac arrest, Mr Kishimoto said. So far 23 people have been taken to nearby hospitals, he said.
The building houses an internal medicine clinic, an English language school and other businesses, NHK national television reported.
Nine people were confirmed dead at hospital, according to TV Asahi.
Police were investigating suspected arson, including reports that a man started the fire in the building, Kyodo News reported, citing people involved in the investigation. Other local news outlets said an elderly man had taken a bag into the building that leaked flammable liquid and was ignited.
NHK footage showed dozens of fire engines and police vehicles on the street near the building, with onlookers watching from across the street.
NHK quoted a witness saying she heard a woman’s voice coming from the fourth floor asking for help. Another witness told TV Asahi he saw orange flames and grey smoke coming out of windows on the fourth floor of the building when he went outside after hearing a commotion.
In all, 70 fire engines were mobilised to fight the fire, which was mostly extinguished within about 30 minutes of an emergency call, officials said.