Tokyo: Twenty four people were left dead and many others injured on Thursday during a suspected arson attack in Kyoto city. Flames also gutted a building.

Police said it appeared that the fire was started deliberately however there was no information on the motive. Hours after the fire, the toll continued to rise.

AFP quoted a fire department official as saying that at least 11 more people were found “in cardio-respiratory arrest.” Japan uses the term for a victim’s death before it is officially certified.

Officials said 35 people had also been injured in the fire, ten of whom were in serious condition, and media said around 70 people were believed to have been in the building when the fire started.

Footage of the blaze showed thick smoke pouring from the windows of the three-storey building. Its facade was charred black on much of one side where the flames had shot out of the windows.

The fire department said it began receiving calls around 10.35 AM about the fire at the studio belonging to Kyoto Animation. “Callers said they heard an explosion from the first floor of Kyoto Animation and saw smoke,” a fire department spokesman said.

“A man threw a liquid and set fire to it,” a Kyoto police spokesman was quoted as saying.

Public broadcaster NHK reported that a man had been detained in connection with the blaze and was taken to hospital for treatment. It reported that the suspect had poured a gasoline-like substance around the building and said “drop dead” as he set fire to it.

Witnesses described a powerful blaze. “I heard two loud bangs, they sounded like explosions,” a man told NHK.

Arson is considered a serious crime and people convicted of deliberately setting fires in a country where many live in wooden houses can face the death penalty.