Hiroshima maid cafe defied fire-drill orders; fire casualties found in windowless room


A Hiroshima maid cafe that burned down last Thursday, killing three people, had defied five warnings from authorities to conduct anti-disaster drills, it has been learned.

The Kuroneko (Black Cat) Maid Cafe, occupying the first and second floors of a building in a busy entertainment district in Hiroshima’s Naka Ward, had been inspected by fire authorities on three occasions in 2007 and twice more in 2011. It was equipped with a fire alarm, a fire extinguisher and a guiding light, but it had never conducted drills, according to the city’s fire department.

The Fire Services Law requires buildings with heavy human traffic to draw up an antifire plan and carry out drills twice a year.

Found dead after the fire were two customers — a 36-year-old male company employee and another man of unknown age — and a 28-year-old female cafe employee. Three others suffered severe burns and other injuries.

The Hiroshima Prefecture Police have yet to determine whether the fire was accidental or an act of arson. The police and the Hiroshima City Fire Department said the blaze is believed to have started in an area close to the stairs on the first floor. The smoke and flames probably spread to the second floor via the stairs.

Meanwhile, the second floor of the cafe had been divided into several small, windowless rooms, making it hard for occupants to notice a fire, according to police and cafe customers.

Police suspect the layout of the cafe delayed the victims’ escape, exacerbating the disaster.

The second floor of the cafe had seven rooms. One of them — where the six people were — was located east of the hallway in the center of the floor, and was further divided into about 10 partitioned areas.

In these small areas, female maids gave oil-massage services on a one-on-one basis.

Each of the units was equipped with a shower, according to regular customers.