The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday indicted six people on suspicion of professional negligence resulting in death in connection with a 2001 fire in the Kabukicho entertainment district that killed 44 people.

Those indicted include Shigeo Segawa, owner of the four-story Meisei 56 building in Shinjuku Ward, the site of the blaze, and Kazuo Yamada, whose firm, Kurume Kosan, managed the building.

Also indicted were Yoshiji Izawa, Shinji Nagai, and Teruji Matsumoto, all of whom with ties to a mah-jongg parlor on the third floor of the building, and Masayuki Goto, the former manager of an adult-entertainment club located on the fourth floor.

All six were placed under arrest Feb. 18.

The nation’s fifth-worst postwar blaze in terms of fatalities started at about 1 a.m. Sept. 1, 2001.

In addition to the 44 deaths — several of which were attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning — three people were injured when they jumped from windows.

According to investigators, fireproof doors and stairways designated as escape routes were blocked by various obstacles when the blaze tore through the building.

Police have determined that, had the building been subject to adequate safety measures, most of the victims would have been able to escape.

Relatives of 25 victims filed a damages suit against the six with the Tokyo District Court on Feb. 21, while the families of seven others plan to sue in mid-March.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.