Japan: At least 27 feared dead in Osaka building fire

Firefighters stand on a floor at a building where the fire broke out in Osaka, western Japan. Credit: AP/Press Association Images

At least 27 people are feared to have died after a fire broke out in a building in the Japanese city of Osaka on Friday.

The blaze started on the fourth floor of an eight-story building in the shopping and entertainment area of Kitashinchi, Osaka city fire department official Akira Kishimoto said.

Mr Kishimoto said that 27 people were found in a state of cardiopulmonary arrest - a term Japanese media use before a death is confirmed by a doctor.

One person is reported to have been injured, a woman who was evacuated by an aerial ladder from a window and is now being treated in a hospital.

People on other floors of the building are believed to have been safely evacuated.

Osaka police confirmed they were investigating whether the fire was caused by arson or an accident.

Police were reportedly searching for a man who witnesses saw carrying a paper bag from which an unidentified liquid was dripping, but police declined to confirm this.

Firefighters worked inside and outside the eight-storey building in a commercial district of the western port city. Credit: AP

Many of the victims - who were all taken to nearby hospitals - are believed to have been visitors at the clinic on the fourth floor, fire department officials said.

The building houses an internal medicine clinic, an English language school and other businesses.

Offering condolences to those who died in the fire, Osaka governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said: "I’m praying so that as many lives as possible can be saved."

Mr Yoshimura said he instructed other hospitals and mental health clinics to provide consultations for about 600 people who were receiving treatment at the damaged clinic.

Footage showed blackened windows after firefighters extinguished the blaze on the fourth floor. Credit: Yukie Nishizawa/Kyodo News/AP

Public broadcaster NHK quoted a witness saying she heard a woman’s voice coming from the fourth floor calling for help.

Another witness told TV Asahi he saw flames and smoke coming out of windows on the fourth floor of the building when he stepped outside after hearing a commotion.

Another bystander said he saw one woman being rescued through a window.

Some 70 fire engines tackled the blaze, which was mostly extinguished within about 30 minutes of an emergency call, officials said.

Last year, Japan saw one of its worst mass casualty incidents since World War Two after a man set fire to a film studio in Kyoto in 2019, killing 36 people.