The Yomiuri ShimbunKYOTO — Roaring flames and the sounds of explosions ripped through the studio building of animation production company Kyoto Animation Co. in Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, on Thursday morning, killing 33 and leaving some in critical condition.
Families of the victims and others were astonished and saddened.
Shinji Aoba, the 41-year-old man who allegedly splashed gasoline in the building while screaming “Die!” reportedly said, “They stole my idea” when he was taken by police.
Kyoto Animation is headquartered in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture, and famous for various popular anime works.
As smoke spewed from windows on the second and third floors of the building, cries were heard, such as “Help!” and “It hurts! It hurts!” Some escaped by jumping from the building.
A 22-year-old man who was in the neighborhood of the studio recalled the time when the fire occurred. “I heard a big ‘Bang!’ and saw the building. At that time, flames had already climbed to the third floor,” he said. Another man set up a ladder against the studio together with nearby residents and rescued some people. “Some were seriously burned, with one having skin that was burned to black,” he said.
At a park where employees of the company fleeing from the building received medical treatment, some bled from their face and arms while others sat down on the ground with shocked expressions.
A woman who fled without putting on shoes cried and said, “A man suddenly entered the building and splashed liquid.” Some people reportedly had burned hair and clothing.
A 69-year-old man in Kizugawa, Kyoto Prefecture, whose granddaughter works at the studio, came to the site to confirm her safety. “She got a long-sought job and seemed to be enjoying every day very much. She was glad that her name was put on the credits as a member of a film production team. I hope she is safe,” he said prayerfully. His granddaughter loved drawing pictures since her childhood and joined the company after graduating from a vocational school, the man said.
A woman in her 20s from Kyoto Prefecture said she could not get in touch with her former classmate. “She aimed to become an illustrator since her school days and her dream came true when she joined the company. I am very worried about her,” the woman said.
According to a 61-year-old woman who saw Aoba taken away by police, he was asked by several police officers why he had done such a thing, and angrily responded to them, “I set it on fire with an ignition lighter.” He also said the company stole his idea for a novel.
Aoba was lying on the street drenched in blood and some burned skin on his arms was ripped off. He was not wearing shoes, and his trousers below the knee were burned and still on fire. The woman poured water over him using her garden hose.
“At first, I thought he was a victim injured in the fire, but I was surprised to find out that he could be an attacker,” she said.
Aoba is believed to live in an apartment in Minuma Ward, Saitama. In April this year, he had trouble with a neighbor as he played music too loud.
On Sunday, a 27-year-old man who lives in the apartment building visited the room where Aoba is believed to live because of loud noise. Aoba shouted at the entrance saying, “I will kill you. I can’t take it anymore,” and grabbed the neighbor by the collar and the hair.
“A terrible thing happened. It is beyond all reason,” Kyoto Animation President Hideaki Hatta said to reporters at the company’s head office in Uji on Thursday afternoon.
According to Hatta, the company has received threatening mails for several years that say such things as “Die” and consulted the Kyoto prefectural police. It is unknown whether these mails are related to the fatal blaze.
Building compiled with fire safety standards
The building targeted in the attack was three stories tall and made of steel-framed reinforced concrete. A circular stairs inside the building extended from the entrance where the gasoline was splashed up to the third floor.
“The structure allowed fire and smoke to spread quickly, which might have prevented many people from escaping,” a person connected to the fire department said.
Waseda University Prof. Yuji Hasemi, a specialist in building disaster prevention, said: “Gasoline is highly volatile and creates large flames in a short period of time. Fire may have flared up outside the windows on the first floor, reaching the second and third floors quickly. Smoke may have also been lifted by rising air caused by the inflammation of gasoline, spreading throughout the building through the stairs.”
The Kyoto prefectural police believe that most of the 33 victims died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
According to the Kyoto City Fire Department and other sources, the building was constructed in 2007 and was not equipped with a sprinkler or indoor fire hydrant. However, the structure is categorized as an “office” under the Fire Service Law and therefore was not required to have such installations.
When the department conducted an on-site inspection last October, it confirmed there were no problems with the building as fire extinguishers and emergency warnings had been set up in accordance with the law.Speech