Three die as fire razes aging Akita apartment building

Kyodo

At least three people were killed and two others remain unaccounted for after a fire engulfed an apartment building in Yokote, Akita Prefecture, early Tuesday, police and firefighters said.

Ten of the two-story wooden building’s 25 residents were injured in the fire that started around 1 a.m., police said. All of the residents were living alone.

Two bodies were discovered at the site and a man was confirmed dead after being taken to a hospital, the authorities said. The fire razed the apartment building and three nearby structures before dying down about five hours later.

The three killed are believed to be among five men who lived on the second floor and remain unaccounted for, police said.

The company that manages the building said the structure was over 30 years old and didn’t have a sprinkler system, though the fire department had never cited this as a hazard.

The building’s manager, who was among the 25 residents, said the blaze had already spread when he was awoken by the sound of a fire alarm that rang while he was in his second-floor unit.

“The blaze was large and (the apartment building) was filled with smoke, with sputtering sounds,” a 21-year-old man living in the neighborhood said.

The building was located about 1 kilometer southeast of JR Yokote Station.