Company offers condolence money to families of victims in Kabukicho blaze

The owner of a building in Tokyo’s Kabukicho district that burned down last year, killing 44 people, has offered the victims’ families 2 million yen each in condolence money, sources close to the case said Thursday.

Kurume Kosan, the firm that owns the building, telephoned the relatives around late September and asked if they were willing to accept the money, according to the sources.

The firm told the relatives the money was a way of expressing their condolences and is not a form of compensation.

But many of the relatives are refusing to accept the money because the firm has not yet clarified what caused the explosion and fire that ripped through the four-story building Sept. 1, 2001.

“Not a single employee of the firm came to visit my daughter’s grave,” one family member said. “I cannot stand this attitude in which they try to put the matter right with money.”

The building housed a game center, hostess club, restaurant and other establishments. Three people were injured in addition to those who died. Arson is suspected.

Police are investigating the case on suspicion that the fire was able to spread because of the building managers’ professional negligence.

A pile of garbage on the landing outside a third-floor video mah-jongg parlor blocked a fire-prevention door, preventing it from closing automatically when fire alarms sounded, investigators said earlier.

The families have been unable to file a damages suit against the firm because they cannot contact all of the victims’ relatives.