Ten more people are feared to have died at an animation studio in the city of Kyoto, western Japan, raising the total fatalities to possibly more than 20, with dozens of others injured, some of them seriously, local media reported Thursday.
According to earlier reports, at least 13 people were believed to have died in the blaze and more than 30 remained unaccounted for, from a total of about 70 people believed to have been working in the studio when the fire started.
The latest reports, however, mean the death toll from the blaze has likely risen above 20, with many bodies recovered from the first and second floors of the three-story studio of Kyoto Animation Co., where the fire started at around 10:30 a.m. local time on Thursday morning.
Local fire authorities and other officials, however, are still trying to confirm the details and whereabouts of some people thought to be in the building when the fire started that still remain unaccounted for.
Neighbors told local media they heard what sounded like a series of loud explosions and saw thick black smoke billowing from the studio, which is known for producing popular TV animation series and artifacts.
They said after rescue services arrived, they could see bodies being carried out of the building wrapped in blankets.
More than 30 fire engines had to be deployed to the scene to deal with the inferno and as of 12:30 p.m. local time firefighters were still battling to control the blaze.
Local police and investigators said a 41-year-old man, identified by his driver's license, admitted on his way to hospital that he spread a flammable liquid, possibly gasoline, around the building before setting it on fire.
The suspect, also being treated in hospital for injuries sustained in the fire, has been taken into custody, investigators said.
According to police accounts, witnesses at the scene said the suspect was yelling "Die" as he started the fire.
A number of knives and knife-like objects were also found at the scene, although investigators have yet to determine if these belong to the suspect.
Kyoto Animation runs studios in Kyoto and nearby Uji, where the company is headquartered.
Founded in 1980s, the company is well known for its animations released in the 2000s that were popular with younger generations.
The firm also produces related animation artifacts and runs training programs for animators.