More than 20 die in Osaka blaze

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Fire engines and police cars line the street in front of a building where a fire broke out in Kita Ward, Osaka City, at around noon on Friday.

OSAKA — A fire broke out Friday morning at a psychosomatic clinic in a building in central Osaka City, leaving 27 people in what was described as a state of cardiopulmonary arrest, police and firefighters said. Of these, 24 were confirmed dead by 5:20 p.m.

The Osaka prefectural police suspect arson based on an examination of the site, investigative sources said.

An emergency call reporting a fire on the fourth floor of the Dojima Kita Building in Kita Ward, Osaka City, was received at around 10:20 a.m. The fire burned a 20-square-meter room of a psychosomatic clinic on that floor, and was put out about half an hour later.

According to the Osaka Municipal Fire Department, 28 people who were in the building and elsewhere suffered injuries, and 27 of them were described as being in a state of cardiopulmonary arrest.

Of the 28 people, 17 were men and 11 were women.

Investigative sources said they have received reports that liquid leaked from a paper bag that an elderly man was carrying at the clinic, and the liquid caught fire.

The fire occurred at Nishi-Umeda Kokoro to Karada no Clinic. According to the clinic’s website, it offers medical care for psychiatric and psychosomatic patients.

The fire is believed to have broken out shortly after the clinic opened at 10 a.m. on the day.

The building housing the clinic is an eight-story reinforced concrete structure that also houses other entities such as a coffee shop.

The building is in the Kitashinchi district, one of the busiest areas in western Japan, just south of JR Osaka Station, with numerous offices, restaurants and other shops.

Orange flames

The area around the Dojima Kita Building was filled with a burned smell. Windows of the clinic facing the street were broken. A number of fire engines and ambulances were lined up on the street near the site.

“Orange flames appeared in the windows on the fourth floor, and black smoke rose toward the rooftop,” said a 65-year-old man who works at an electronics store across the street. “A woman was calling for help from a window on the sixth floor, and she was saved later by a ladder truck. The fire seemed to spread unusually fast.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The building which houses a psychosomatic clinic where the fire occurred is seen Friday morning in Kita Ward, Osaka City.

A 30-year-old woman who works at a nearby company said: “I went outside when I smelled smoke, and there were people covered in soot being transported on stretchers from the building. Some were given cardiac massage, and everyone was in a panic.”

The father of the doctor who heads the clinic told The Yomiuri Shimbun: “My son owns the clinic. I haven’t been able to reach him on the phone. I hope he is safe.”

Dangers of fire at multi-tenant building

Fires at multi-tenant buildings have caused serious casualties in the past.

A fire at a five-story building in the Kabukicho district of Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, in September 2001 killed 44 people, including workers and customers at the establishments in the building.

Investigation is still ongoing as the police have not identified the cause of that fire.

Following the Kabukicho incident, the government revised the Fire Service Law in 2002 to strengthen fire prevention measures at such buildings, requiring even small multi-tenant buildings to install automatic fire alarm systems.

In a known arson attack, a man set fire to a three-story studio building of Kyoto Animation Co. in Fushimi Ward, Kyoto City, in July 2019, killing 36 people and injuring 32 others.