Myojo 56 Building Fire

The fire, which broke out at around 1 a.m. on Sept.

1, 2001, on a stairway between the third and fourth floors after an explosion, ripped through the building.

Police believe the death toll was aggravated by multiple safety violations, including fire doors that were supposed to shut automatically when smoke is detected that remained open because garbage blocked their movement, and blocked emergency stairs.

The 44 fatalities, including customers and workers in the third- and fourth-floor establishments, mainly died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Three others who jumped from windows to escape the fire suffered injuries.

An explosion which sparked a fire in a building in a busy Tokyo entertainment district has killed at least 44 people. with others critically injured in hospital.

It is unclear what caused the blast which went off about 0100 on Saturday (1600GMT Friday) in the popular Kabukicho entertainment district near Shinjuku railway station.

Police now believe that they have rescued everyone who was in the building, which houses a mahjong gaming parlour, sex clubs and several restaurants.

People found it hard to flee the fire, because there were few windows and only one entrance to the building.

There were 32 men and 12 women among the dead, most of whom died from burns or smoke inhalation.

Sixteen people were found dead in a video mah-jongg parlor on the third floor and 28 others in a hostess bar on the fourth floor, police and the fire department said shortly after the fire.

The fire department has been unable to determine what specifically started the fire.

It cited mainly circumstantial evidence in listing arson as the most likely cause. A large amount of flammable objects were kept at the spot where the fire started -- a corner on the third floor staircase that is normally not seen by the occupants of the building.