Twenty-seven people were feared dead after a blaze at a building in the Japanese city of Osaka on Friday, the local fire department said.
Police are investigating the blaze as suspected arson, the Kyodo news agency said, adding that an unidentified man is believed to have started the fire.
An official at the city’s fire department said 27 people were in cardiopulmonary arrest – a term Japanese media use before a death is confirmed by a doctor – and one person was injured.
Television footage showed dozens of firefighters working inside and outside the eight-storey building in a commercial district of the western port city after the blaze was extinguished.
The charred interior of the fourth floor of the narrow office building was visible through broken and blackened windows.
The floor housed a clinic that provided mental health services and general medical care, local media said.
“The fire was detected at 10:18 am at the fourth floor,” the official said. “As of noon, 70 fire engines are at the scene.”
The blaze, in the busy business and entertainment district near Kitashinchi train station, was put out after half an hour, they added.
People on other floors of the building are believed to have been evacuated.
“When I looked outside, I saw an orange flame in the window on the fourth floor of the building,” an unnamed witness, who had been in their nearby office, told Kyodo. “A woman was waving her hand from the window on the sixth floor and seeking help.”
A middle-aged woman who witnessed the fire told public broadcaster NHK: “There was lots of a dark smoke … there was a very strong smell, too.”
The fire is the most deadly in Japan since July 2019, when an arson attack at an animation studio in Kyoto killed 36 people.