Most of 33 people who died in a blaze at a Kyoto animation studio were found on stairs leading to the building’s rooftop, police and firefighters said Friday.
Nineteen victims were found collapsed on the stairs connecting the third floor to the rooftop of Kyoto Animation Co., and the door at the top was closed when firefighters arrived at the scene on Thursday, they said.
The fire is a suspected arson incident over which a 41-year-old man is now in police custody. Many victims are believed to have tried to escape the flames and smoke by ascending to the roof but were unable to open the door, the authorities said.
The death toll from the fire is among the worst in recent years in Japan. Over 30 people were also injured.
About 70 people were inside the three-story building when the fire broke out on Thursday morning. In addition to the 19 victims found on the stairs to the roof, 11 were found dead on the second floor, two on the first floor and one on the stairs between the second and third floors, police said.
According to the police, the man entered the building while screaming “Die!” Authorities believe he sprayed a flammable liquid inside the building prior to starting the blaze.
The man admitted to setting the fire when he was detained by police. As he is being treated at a hospital for burns to his face and chest, the police plan to question him thoroughly after he recovers.
Police are also expected to conduct an on-site investigation at the burned building in Kyoto’s Fushimi Ward.
Kyoto Animation, known as “KyoAni” in Japan, has produced popular TV animation series including “K-On!” and “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” (Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu), which depict the daily lives of high school girls.