- The 41-year-old is accused of spilling fuel into the building and yelling "You're going to die" before setting the fire on.
- Friday's investigations were complicated by the fact that the alleged perpetrator, a 41-year-old man who also allegedly brought knives and a hammer to the scene.
- Victims "had lost their hair and eyebrows."
The Japanese police were trying to elucidate Friday the motive of the suspect in the aftermath of a terrible fire that killed 33 people in an animation studio in Kyoto. Witnesses described scenes of hell. The tragedy stirred up excitement in Japan and beyond, with fans around the world sending online messages of support to Kyoto Animation which produces successful cartoons.
In the early hours of the morning, the investigators went to the two-story building blackened by flames, located in a residential area of this large city in the west of the archipelago. The 41-year-old is accused of spilling fuel into the building and yelling “You’re going to die” before setting the fire.
The fire apparently spread at a blazing speed, trapping many employees. More than 70 people were present, 33 died, trying in vain to escape flames and suffocating smoke. There are also 36 wounded, including 10 seriously injured. Many bodies were found on the stairs leading to the rooftop terrace, according to firefighters who ruled out a malfunction of the fire-fighting devices.
The building was “up to standard,” said a spokesman for the emergency service contacted by news reporters. “We have a data registry attesting to it. There were spiral staircases from the ground floor to the roof,” he explained, allowing “smoke and flames” to engulf “in a moment. Those who worked on the first and second floors had to be taken by surprise without knowing what had happened down there.”
The opinion is shared by the experts. “The flames are advancing much faster with gasoline than in the case of a normal fire,” said former police investigator NHK Keizo Harafuji in Tokyo Thursday evening. “Once the fire started, it was difficult to escape.”
Friday’s investigations were complicated by the fact that the alleged perpetrator, a 41-year-old man who also allegedly brought knives and a hammer to the scene, was not able to be interviewed by the police. Currently hospitalized, he is in an unconscious state, according to press reports.
He had no connection with the animation studio. He accused the company of stealing his work, according to the local Kyoto Shimbun newspaper, but this element was not confirmed by the investigators. “We received emails threatening murder,” said Hideaki Hatta, CEO of Kyoto Animation, but apparently this is not uncommon in the animation world.
Various testimonies collected painted an apocalyptic situation. “A person jumped from the second floor, desperately trying to escape, but we could not even run to help him as the fire was strong,” said a resident to an online newspaper, affiliated with the Asahi mainstream newspaper. Some of the wounded were “screaming loudly,” while others were “dazed,” she added. “It was like watching hell.” Victims “had lost their hair and eyebrows” and “could not even hold a glass of water in their hands because of their burns, so I helped them drink,” said a 60-year-old.
On Friday, people brought flowers to the studio’s website, which is very known for its series like Munto, Lucky Star, Haruhi Suzumiya’s Melancholy and K-On! In this wave of solidarity, an American company launched an online fundraising project to collect funds, which today already gathered more than one million dollars.