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OSAKA — Four bodies were found in the charred rubble of an apartment building in Hirakata, Osaka Prefecture, after a fire broke out early Sunday, police said.

Yoshio Maruyama, 73, Sueo Nishikusa, 65, and Akemi Nakano, 65, all of whom are residents on the second floor, and Kenji Kusuhara, 53, a tenant on the first floor, are missing, police said. They believe the bodies are of those missing four.

Police were investigating the cause of the fire and trying to confirm identities later in the day. Police said Kijiro Kanazawa, 66, who was rushed to hospital, suffered serious burns to both arms. Kanazawa lived on the first floor.

The fire, which occurred around 2:30 a.m., gutted about 300 sq. meters of the two-story wooden building, police said. Firefighters took about four hours to extinguish the fire, because fire engines were not able to come close to the apartment building, as it is surrounded by narrow alleys in a residential area, police said.

According to investigations, the apartment building had been built more than 30 years ago and contained mostly one-room units. Eight residents lived on the first floor and seven on the second floor, most of them elderly people living on their own.

Nobukazu Kimura, 62, the apartment caretaker living on the first floor, said the passageway was already filled with smoke when he went out after hearing a crunching sound.

“I tried to bang on the doors of each room, but the fire spread quickly,” he said.

The site of the fire is about 1.5 km east of the Gotenyama Station on Keihan Main Line.

Slain before burned

NAGASAKI (Kyodo) Six people thought to have died in a house fire early Friday in the town of Obama, Nagasaki Prefecture, were probably victims of a murder-suicide, as at least three of the six were already dead when the fire broke out, police sources said late Saturday.

Among the six victims, only Kazuhiro Hayashida, 37, is thought to have been alive when the fire ripped through the house, while his wife Chiharu, 30, had been strangled to death and his daughter Chihiro, 7, and his son, Sohei, 4, had already died of skull fractures, the sources said.

In addition, Hayashida’s mother, Chie, 71, sustained injuries to the right side of her temple and was pronounced dead at hospital due to massive blood loss, the sources said.

The cause of death of another body, believed to be that of Hayashida’s 1-year-old daughter Yui is not yet known, as the body was severely burned, according to police.

Police have identified five bodies as Hayashida’s family members, but they have not yet identified the sixth body. They will conduct DNA testing to confirm the identity.

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