An aerial view shows firefighters battling fires at the site in Kyoto, western Japan, on Thursday. Kyodo/Reuters
• A man is suspected of starting the fire early on Thursday
• Japanese authorities say at least 65 people have been injured
• Rescue officials set up a tent outside the building to provide first aid
A suspected arson attack on an animation production company in Japan killed 33 people and injured dozens more on Thursday, with flames gutting the building in the city of Kyoto.
A man screaming "You die!" burst into an animation studio in Kyoto, doused it with a flammable liquid and set it on fire on Thursday, killing 33 people in an attack that shocked anime fans across Japan and beyond.
Thirty-six others were injured, some of them critically, in a blaze that sent people scrambling up the stairs toward the roof in a desperate — and futile — attempt to escape. Others emerged bleeding, blackened and barefoot.
The suspect was injured and taken to a hospital. Police identified him only a 41-year-old man who was not a company employee. They gave no immediate details on the motive.
Firefighters found 33 bodies, 20 of them on the third floor and some on the stairs to the roof, where they apparently collapsed, Kyoto fire official Kazuhiro Hayashi said. Two were found dead on the first floor, 11 others on the second floor, he said.
Most of the victims were employees of Kyoto Animation, which does work on feature films and TV productions but is best known for its mega-hit stories featuring high school girls. The stories are so popular that some of the places depicted have become pilgrimage sites for fans.
The blaze started in the three-storey building in Japan's ancient capital after the attacker sprayed an unidentified liquid accelerant, police and fire officials said.
"There was an explosion, then I heard people shouting, some asking for help," a witness told TBS TV. "Black smoke was rising from windows on upper floors. Ten there was a man struggling to crawl out of the window."
Japanese media reported the fire might have been set near the front door, forcing people to find other ways out.
A witness who saw the attacker being approached by police told Japanese networks that the man admitted spreading gasoline and setting the fire with a lighter. She told NHK public television that the man had burns on his arms and legs and was angrily complaining that something of his had been "stolen," possibly by the company.
NHK footage also showed sharp knives police had collected from the scene, though it was not clear if they belonged to the attacker.
Survivors said he was screaming "You die!" as he dumped the liquid, according to Japanese media. They said some of the survivors got splashed with the liquid.
Kyoto Animation, better known as KyoAni, was founded in 1981 as an animation and comic book production studio, and its hits include "Lucky Star" of 2008, "K-On!" in 2011 and "Haruhi Suzumiya" in 2009.
The company does not have a major presence outside Japan, though it was hired to do secondary animation work on a 1998 "Pokemon" feature that appeared in US theaters and a "Winnie the Pooh" video.
"My heart is in extreme pain. Why on earth did such violence have to be used?" company president Hideaki Hatta said. Hatta said the company had received anonymous death threats by email in the past, but he did not link them to Thursday's attack.
Anime fans expressed anger, prayed and mourned the victims on social media. A cloud-funding site was set up to help the company rebuild.
Fire officials said more than 70 people were in the building at the time.
"Rescue operations are continuing, and we are trying to bring out several victims who are trapped inside... including ones who may not be able to move by themselves.
Officials said 35 people had been injured in the fire, 10 of whom were in serious condition, and local media said around 70 people were believed to have been in the building when the fire started.
Rescue officials set up a tent outside the building to provide first aid and sort out the injured. Fire department officials say more than 70 people were in the building at the time of the fire, but most of them ran outside.
Footage of the blaze showed thick white smoke pouring from the windows of the three-storey building. Its facade was charred black on much of one side where the flames had shot out of the windows.
"Rescue operations are continuing, and we are trying to bring out several victims who are trapped inside... including ones who may not be able to move by themselves," a second fire department spokesman said.
"We can't immediately determine their condition," he said.
Witnesses described a powerful blaze.
"I heard two loud bangs, they sounded like explosions," a man told NHK.
"The fire was raging hard. I saw red flames flaring."
A woman living nearby told Kyodo news agency she had seen at least one injured person outside the building.
"A person with singed hair was lying down and there were bloody footprints," the 59-year-old told the local news outlet.
There was no immediate statement from the studio, which produced several well-known television anime series, including "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya" and "K-ON!"
"We are in the process of learning what happened," said a woman who answered the phone at the firm's headquarters in Uji City in the Kyoto region.
"We cannot tell you anything more," she added.
One man suffered burns and was hospitalized, and firefighters have been deployed, said Hitomi Hirokami, an official at Kiryu in Gunma prefecture, about 100 kilometers northwest of Tokyo.
Eyewitnesses on Friday recount details of a horrifying inferno that tore through a Japanese animation firm and killed dozens.
The blaze in the city of Kyoto appeared to have been started deliberately, police said, but there was no immediate information on a possible motive.
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According to CCTV footage shared by the city’s police force captures the shocking incident, which took place in the early hours of Wednesday last week (11 May).