Blaze that gutted historical castle in Okinawa likely caused by electrical fault

Source: Xinhua| 2019-11-05 21:56:59|Editor: xuxin
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TOKYO, Nov. 5 (Xinhua) -- Local police and fire authorities believed a blaze that gutted a historical castle in Japan's southernmost prefecture of Okinawa last week was likely caused by a faulty electric distribution board, local media reported Tuesday.

The main structures of Shuri Castle in Naha, the main hall of which was designated a World Heritage site, burned down in a predawn fire, which began on the northern side of the castle's main hall shortly before 2:40 a.m. local time on Nov. 31.

The police and local fire department said it took more than 10 fire engines to bring the blaze, which also engulfed other affiliate buildings, under control hours later.

Investigations into the incident have since found through security footage taken from the main hall that a flash of light occurred just prior to the fire starting.

Sources close to the matter suggested the flash was likely the beginning of the fire and added that the seven cameras set up to record in the main hall were all almost instantly knocked out in the subsequent inferno.

A charred electrical distribution board was found by investigators in the days after the blaze, which they believe short circuited and started the rampant fire that devoured seven wooden buildings occupying a total of 4,800 square meters and took until 1:30 p.m. local time the following day to fully extinguish.

Investigators are focusing their attention on the area close to where the circuit board was located as well as on the actual potentially faulty electrical device itself for further evidence.

Security guards near the castle were initially alerted to the blaze at the castle, a major tourist attraction in the region for its cultural and historical significance, after a fire alarm sounded and they saw smoke billowing from the main hall.

Due to the wooden structure of the castle, the blaze quickly spread, engulfing and gutting the buildings.

After the fire was extinguished, remnants of black and gray ruins were left with smoke rising from the scene.

In addition to the main hall, the Hokuden north hall and Nanden south hall were completely destroyed. The three halls were not equipped with sprinklers as their installation was not mandatory, according to the local fire department.

The castle staff were preparing for a festival and related events until late Wednesday night to recreate scenes from ancient rituals. None of them were believed to be present when the fire broke out, the police said, who added that there were no injuries as a result of the blaze.

All the gates directly connected to the Seiden hall were locked when the blaze started, they added.

The festival, which was supposed to run through Sunday, was canceled following the fire.

At a press conference, Japan's top government spokesperson Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, "Shuri Castle is an extremely important symbol for Okinawa," adding that the government "will do its best to reconstruct" the castle.

The castle is listed as Japan's 11th World Heritage site in December 2000 and serves as a symbol of the Ryukyu Kingdom that ruled most of the Ryukyu Islands from the 15th to the 19th century, with kings during the era unifying Okinawa.

The castle was originally built around 500 years ago and designated a national treasure in 1933.

Remnants of the original castle have also been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The castle, however, was rebuilt after previously being burnt to the ground during World War II and its main hall underwent restoration in 1992.