Twenty-seven people are feared dead after a fire broke out in a building in Osaka in western Japan, fire department officials said Friday.
The fire started on the fourth floor of an eight-storey building in a shopping and entertainment area of Kitashinchi, Osaka city fire department official Akira Kishimoto said.
Twenty-eight people were affected, 27 of whom were found in a state of cardiac arrest, Kishimoto said. So far 23 people have been taken to nearby hospitals, he said.
The building houses an internal medicine clinic, an English language school and other businesses, NHK national television said.
Police were investigating suspected arson, including reports that a man started the fire in the building, Kyodo News said, citing people involved in the investigation.
An elderly man brought a bag into the building that leaked flammable liquid and was ignited, the Yomiuri newspaper said.
The fire broke out shortly after the clinic, on the fourth floor of a multi-storey office building, opened for business at 10am on Friday (local time), NHK reported.
People on other floors of the building were believed to have been evacuated, Kishimoto said.
NHK footage showed dozens of fire engines and police vehicles on the street near the building, with onlookers watching the development from across the street.
It also captured smoke pouring out of the building's fourth floor windows, where a psychiatry clinic is located.
One man told the broadcaster he saw a woman calling for help from one of the windows.
In all, 70 fire engines were mobilised to fight the fire, which was mostly extinguished within about 30 minutes of an emergency call, officials said.
Witnesses describe horror scenes
A man who works across the street from the commercial building told the Yomiuri newspaper he watched the fire engulf the floors.
"The entire window frame on the fourth floor of the building turned orange due to flames, and black smoke rose to the rooftop," he said.
"From the window, I could see the fire going to the back of the building. The speed at which the fire became stronger was abnormally fast."
A 30-year-old woman who also works nearby told the publication she "went out because of the smell of smoke".
"My whole body turned black, and soot-filled people were carried out of the building one after another by stretchers," she said, adding that "everyone was in a panic".
With AAP and Reuters
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