At least 27 reported dead in Japan university fire

Written by By Staff Writer

Up to 27 people were feared dead after an eight-story building on a popular Japanese ski resort was destroyed in a blaze on Tuesday, according to emergency services.

The fire broke out shortly before 2 a.m. local time (18:00 GMT Monday) at a new city-state university center in the town of Mochis. It has been confirmed that most of the victims were either students or university staff, police told local reporters.

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Mochis is one of two ski resorts in the resort of Aomori Prefecture, located 120 kilometers (75 miles) northeast of Tokyo. At the height of winter ski season, the resort is often filled with tourists.

“This is a terrible tragedy … and our prime minister has asked the government and his deputy, Shigeru Ishiba, for cooperation with the disaster-response team to find out how to provide shelter to those who have fled the building,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters.

Local government official Yuki Sugiyama told reporters that many people were trapped inside the burning building. Footage from Japanese national broadcaster NHK showed crowds of spectators gathered outside the building.

Kobunori Kato, an official from the Oto city hall, told reporters the eight-story building housed the Nihon University campus. The ski resort is a nearby residential area.

“The building itself is a block and has two floors above it and two levels below it. But the right side building has two floors above and two below,” he said.

Akihiro Matsushita, another official from the regional government, said the fire was being treated as homicide.

The city council had ordered a shelter-in-place order, which all local resident were instructed to take effect, while firefighters battled the blaze, according to local media.

Photojournalist Kenji Seto, who witnessed the fire, told CNN by telephone that the building caught fire soon after lights in the building went out.

“I woke up with the others around me, and there was a loud bang and smoke filled the living room,” he said.

“It looks like the fire spread fast because there was not much fire fighting equipment outside. Some of the people who came out took out bricks and wooden planks to try to save the building.”

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