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Man screams ‘die!’ as he sets fire to Japanese cartoon studio, killing 33 people

Man screams ‘die!’ as he sets fire to Japanese cartoon studio, killing 33 people
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TOKYO – A man shouted “Die!” as he sprayed a flammable liquid throughout an animation studio in Japan on Thursday and set the building alight, killing 33 people and making it the nation’s worst mass killing in 18 years.

A series of explosions triggered an inferno that swept through the three-storey workspace, leaving many of its occupants unconscious and injured, emergency services said.

Footage showed smoke billowing from the complex on the outskirts of Kyoto as rescue workers rushed to the scene.

The suspect, a 41-year-old man, was in police custody and was being treated for his injuries in a hospital, officials said.

An aerial view shows firefighters battling fires at the site where a man started a fire after spraying a liquid at a three-storey studio of Kyoto Animation Co. on July 18, 2019. Kyodo/via REUTERS

Naoyuki Takao, deputy chief of the Kyoto police investigative department, said the fire had taken hold immediately after the man ignited what appeared to be gasoline.

At least 36 people were injured, about 10 of them seriously, said Kyoto City Fire Department official Takashi Miyata. About 70 people were inside the complex when the blaze erupted, he said.

“Fire department workers have been trying to rescue them from the building,” Miyata said.

It took firefighters about five hours to contain the blaze, the Kyodo news agency reported.

On Twitter, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe described the attack as “too appalling for words” and expressed condolences to the victims.

The blaze broke out around 10:30 a.m. at a three-storey studio of Kyoto Animation Co.

Kyoto Animation was founded in 1981. In addition to making animation, it publishes novels, comics and visual books, designs characters, and manages a school, according to its website.

Firefighters at the Kyoto Animation Co. on July 18, 2019. Kyodo/via REUTERS

The studio produces popular series such as the “Sound! Euphonium.” Its “Free! Road to the World – The Dream” movie is due for release this month.

“I am heartbroken,” 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, with some users posting pictures of animation. Many posted with the hashtag “#PrayForKyoani” – using an abbreviation for Kyoto Animation.

The studio has an outsized impact on Japan’s animation industry that outstrips the list of works it has produced, said Tokyo-based film commentator Yuichi Maeda.

“It has a huge presence in animation here. To have this many people die at once will be a huge blow to the Japanese animation industry,” he said.

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