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.
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, said fire department officials.
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. Among other businesses in the building are a beauty salon, an English-language school and a clothing store.
Dozens of fire engines and ambulances arrived in response to the fire Friday morning. The blaze appeared to be limited to the fourth floor, but one person was evacuated from the sixth floor, according to local media.