23 feared dead after arson at Japanese animation studio

2019 from a Kyodo News helicopter shows the three-story studio of Kyoto Animation Co. in Kyoto after a man started a fire there. The studio is known for producing the popular TV animation series

I'm heartbroken seeing what happened to Kyoto Animation.

An aerial view of firefighters in the upper levels of the building.

The suspect is now in hospital with serious burn injuries and police do not expect to be able to question him on Thursday.

Police said they were still investigating the cause of the fire but it was a suspected arson attack. Multiple knives were found at the scene, but it is not known if they were his.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe mourned for the victims of a deadly fire at a Kyoto animation production office.

Kyoto Animation also have produced video game cinematics for Konami's popular baseball series Jikkyo Powerful Pro Yakyu (or Power Pros as it's known in the west).

The fire broke out at the three-storey building at around 10:30am (01:35 GMT) on Thursday.

"A person with singed hair was lying down and there were bloody footprints", a local woman told news agency Kyodo.

Another witness said he saw "red flames flaring". Almost 10 others found on the top floor were presumed dead, he said.

Thirty-six others were injured in the attack on Thursday (Friday NZ time), some of them critically, in a blaze that sent people scrambling up the stairs toward the roof in a desperate - and futile - attempt to escape what proved to be Japan's deadliest fire in almost two decades.

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The company - whose hits include "Lucky Star", "K-On!" and "Haruhi Suzumiya" - does not have a major presence outside Japan, though it was hired to provide animation work on a 1998 "Pokemon" feature that appeared in U.S. theaters and a "Winnie the Pooh" video.

They said he ran away from the building towards a nearby train station after the fire started but fell to the ground. He is not a company employee, officials said.

According to NHK, Japan's national public broadcasting service, several people also suffered heart attacks but were left behind as rescue efforts continued. "I heard him saying something like "you copied it", a neighbour said.

Seven were confirmed dead with severe burns, said fire department official Satoshi Fujiwara. Some 10 victims were found unconscious, NHK reported, citing the local fire department.

The building was severely damaged.

"No, I don't know what I should be thinking now", tweeted Yutaka Yamamoto, an animation director who once worked at Kyoto Animation. People were later seen being carried out of the studio covered in blankets.

The studio which produces several well-known anime series such as "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya" and "K-ON!" has not published a statement yet.

In the aftermath of the attack, many fans have shared their support for the studio on social media using the hashtag #PrayForKyoani while others have begun to share ways to directly donate to the anime studio.

A crowdfunding page called "Help KyoAni Heal" has been up by Texas-based Sentai Filmworks "to help the KyoAni team during this time of need".

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