MAEBASHI, Gunma Pref. (Kyodo) Three more people caught in the fire that destroyed a nursing home for the elderly Thursday in Shibukawa, Gunma Prefecture, have died, bringing the death toll to 10, police said Saturday.
The fire burned down three buildings at Tamayura nursing home, and the bodies of seven people have been recovered from one building that was badly burned, the police said.
The three who died Saturday — Hideo Aizawa, 88, Hide Yamada, 72, and Takaji Fukai, 77 — were among four people rescued from a separate building and hospitalized for burn injuries, the police said.
Aizawa and Yamada died from burns that covered their entire bodies, they said.
Staff at the Tamayura home said there were 17 people in the facility at the time of the fire, which broke out at around 11 p.m. Thursday and was put out about two hours later.
The seven recovered bodies are believed to be those of four men and three women between 55 and 84 who remain unaccounted for, the police said.
Of the seven, one man and a woman burned to death, while two men died of carbon monoxide poisoning, the police said.
Among the 10 dead, five are believed to have been referred to the facility by Sumida Ward in Tokyo, which deemed the facility “excellent.”
However, some residents in the vicinity of the nursing home had been pushing to shut the facility down. One resident urged Sumida Ward in 2006 to stop referring people to the home on the grounds that there were problems concerning nursing and feeding at the facility, the residents said.
A male resident said the nursing home was so understaffed at times that none of them were able to come to help an elderly person who had fallen while out for a walk.
Meanwhile, Nobuo Yokoyama, head of Sumida Ward’s welfare office, placed a floral tribute at the site of the fatal fire Saturday.
“I would like to apologize to those who died at a facility that we introduced,” Yokoyama told reporters.
The operator of the facility had not registered with the prefectural government to provide nursing care services for the elderly, and police began questioning its chief, Goro Takakuwa, 84, on Friday.
The prefectural government was scheduled to begin investigating the facility and its services Monday.
The facility had no sprinklers in the buildings, according to Takakuwa. It was smaller than those required to have sprinklers, according to the prefectural government.
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