Dozens dead after Japanese animation studio hit by arson attack

Kyoto Animation Studio was hit by an arson attack, leaving 20 dead.

A man screaming “you die!” has burst into an animation production studio in Japan and set it on fire.

Anime fans across the world are in shock after the attack left 33 dead.

Most of the dead and the 36 injured were workers at Kyoto Animation, known for mega-hit stories featuring high school girls, with places featured in the stories even becoming “pilgrimage sites” for their fans.

The fire started in the three-storey building in Japan’s ancient capital after the suspect sprayed an unidentified liquid accelerant.

Japanese media reported the fire might have been set near the front door, forcing people to find other exits and possibly delaying their escape.

So far, 20 people have been confirmed dead, including 12 on the first and second floors, and eight more on the third floor.

Nearly 10 others found on the top floor were presumed dead. Some were found on the stairs, where they apparently collapsed while gasping for air and trying to go out to the roof.

Some of the injured people were in critical condition. Officials said firefighters were still searching inside the building in case anyone else was left behind.

Kyoto police said the suspect was injured and taken to a hospital for treatment. They are investigating the man, who is 41 and not a company employee, on suspicion of arson.

A witness who saw the suspect being approached by police told Japanese networks that the man admitted spreading gasoline and setting a fire with a lighter.

She told NHK public television that the man had burns on his arms and legs and that he 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 suspect.

Survivors who saw the attacker said he was not their colleague and that he was screaming “(you) die!” when he dumped the liquid and started the fire, 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, K-On! and Haruhi Suzumiya.

The company does not have a major presence outside Japan, though it was hired to provide secondary animation work on a 1998 Pokemon feature that appeared in US theatres and a Winnie The Pooh video.

“Why on earth did such violence have to be used?” company president Hideki Hatta asked, as he condemned the attack.

Mr Hatta said his company has received anonymous death threats by emails in the past but responded “sincerely” each time, though he was not linking them to the attack.

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