Fire at Japanese mahjong parlor kills 4; possibly arson
- Published on Tuesday, 17 November 2009 14:18
- Written by Staff
HAMAMATSU, Shizuoka (Japan) - Four men were killed and three people were injured and hospitalized in a fire that gutted a two-story mahjong game parlor early Tuesday in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, local police said. Police are looking into the possibility of arson in connection with the fire that broke out at around 3:30 a.m., as it followed a case of suspected arson on Oct 14 that burned part of the building’s outer wall and used tires on the premises.
Police initially discovered the bodies of three male customers at the site, and another man was later confirmed dead after being brought to a hospital.
Police are trying to identify the victims. The man who died after being hospitalized appeared to be in his sixties and apparently suffered a skull fracture after falling down while attempting to escape. All of the survivors are believed to be local residents.
A witness reported that the fire broke out after hearing a door close on the unmanned first floor, leading investigators to suspect that someone may have sneaked into the structure and set it alight.
"I heard a door close on the first floor. An employee went downstairs to see what happened, and screamed, 'Fire.' I tried to go down the stairs but couldn't because the stairway was filled with smoke," said a 49-year-old local resident who escaped unhurt.
The parlor was the target of another suspected arson last month, when some used tires left behind the building were set on fire on Oct. 14, investigators said.
According to police, eight people (six customers and two employees) were playing mahjong on the second floor at the time of the fire. One of the employees who escaped the fire saw a curtain burning on the first floor where the fire is suspected to have originated.
The owner of the parlor said he was already at home when the fire started and that there were no sprinklers or fire alarms installed in the parlor.
‘‘My predecessor died in October last year, and I took over the shop,’’ he said. ‘‘I don’t recall anyone holding a grudge against me.’’
Hamamatsu (浜松市, Hamamatsu-shi) is the largest town in the prefecture of Shizuoka in Japan.
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