A man screaming “You die” burst into a Japanese anime studio and doused it with a flammable liquid and set it on fire, killing 33 people in the unwarranted attack.
The suspect, identified only a 41-year-old man has left the country and anime fans shocked and in grief, the AP reports. 36 others were left injured, with some being critical. Victims tried to escape by rushing up the stairs towards the roof in what has been deemed as Japan’s deadliest fire in nearly two decades.
Those who survived escaped the building bleeding, blackened and barefoot, the outlet states. The suspect, who did not work for the studio, was injured and taken to a local hospital. Police have given no details on the motive, but according to AP, an eyewitness told Japanese TV that the attacker angrily complained that something of his had been stolen, possibly by the company.
The attacker ignited the blaze after spraying an unidentified liquid accelerant onto the premises, police and fire officials said. Japanese media reported the fire might have been set near the front door, forcing people to find other ways out.
“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.”
Firefighters found 33 bodies, 20 of them on the third floor and some on the stairs to the roof, where they had 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.
A witness who saw the attacker being approached by police told Japanese media that the man admitted to spreading gasoline and setting the fire with a lighter. She told NHK public television that the arsonist had burns on his arms and legs, his hair was singed and his legs were exposed because his jeans were burned below the knees.
“He sounded he had a grudge against the society, and he was talking angrily to the policemen, too, though he was struggling with pain,” she told Kyodo News. “He also sounded he had a grudge against Kyoto Animation.”
Survivors said he was screaming “You die!” as he doused the animation studio with gasoline, according to Japanese media. Witnesses said some of the survivors got splashed with the liquid.
“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, AP reports.
Anime fans have taken to social media to express their outrage and have started a crowd-funding site to help the company rebuild.
Fire officials said more than 70 people were in the building at the time.