Oil found at scene of Osaka fire

The Yomiuri Shimbun
People place flowers on Saturday in front of the building where a fire occurred in Kita Ward, Osaka City.

OSAKA — Officials investigating a fatal blaze at a clinic in Kita Ward, Osaka City, detected oil at the scene, according to sources, who said a man is suspected of walking into the clinic with a flammable liquid that might have been gasoline.

Osaka prefectural police have launched a murder and arson investigation.

The fire occurred at around 10:20 a.m. on Friday at Nishi-Umeda Kokoro to Karada no Clinic on the fourth floor of an eight-story building in central Osaka.

Twenty-seven people were taken to hospital in a state of cardiopulmonary arrest. Police have confirmed the deaths of 24 people.

A woman also suffered minor injuries.

Based on eyewitness accounts and other information, the prefectural police said a 61-year-old man from Nishiyodogawa Ward, Osaka City, entered the clinic and placed a paper bag near a heater, then kicked the bag over, and liquid that leaked from the bag caught fire.

The fire department detected oil near the reception, where the fire was most intense, according to investigative sources.

The prefectural police found a card from the clinic at the home of the man, who was among the victims that were taken to a hospital in a state of cardiopulmonary arrest. His condition is unknown.

The prefectural police will investigate whether there was any trouble between the man and the clinic.

About 30 minutes before the blaze at the clinic, a fire broke out at the man’s house, located 3.5 kilometers from the clinic. Arson is suspected.

According to the clinic’s website, appointments were required for consultations.

Every Friday, the clinic offered a program to help patients who have taken leave from work due to depression or other reasons.

Investigative sources said 10 of the 24 deceased victims were found with no major external injuries near a room at the back of the clinic, which did not have an emergency exit. It is believed they died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The prefectural police suspect that the patients were unable to escape because of the speed at which smoke filled the clinic. Autopsies are being conducted to determine the exact cause of their deaths.

The other 14 confirmed fatalities were people who suffered burns in a corridor near the waiting area.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Firefighters enter the building on Saturday.

The clinic had a long, narrow floor plan with two entry points located near the reception, an elevator and a doorway leading to emergency stairs.

The fire was extinguished in about 30 minutes, according to the prefectural police, and about 25 square meters of the 80-square-meter clinic was damaged.