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Police suspect arson by 61-year-old clinic patient in deadly Osaka fire

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Police suspect arson by 61-year-old clinic patient in deadly Osaka fire
A mourner lays flowers in front of an eight-story building Saturday in Osaka, Japan, where 24 people died in a deadly fire. Photo by EPA-EFE/JIJI PRESS

Dec. 18 (UPI) -- Police suspect a 61-year-old male psychiatric patient intentionally started a fire in the Japanese city of Osaka that killed least 24 people, multiple reports indicated Saturday.

The man suspected of arson in one of Japan's deadliest blazes in recent memory is among the 27 survivors who were hospitalized after the fire and is now in critical condition with burns, police sources told the Kyodo news agency and Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun.

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Two survivors of the suspected attack, both women, remained unconscious and in serious condition Saturday, while another woman was being treated for minor injuries, authorities said.

A total of 14 men and 10 women died the fire. Most of them succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning after they become trapped inside the building, national broadcaster NHK reported.

The blaze started Friday morning on the fourth floor of an eight-story building in Osaka's Kitashinchi entertainment district housing a psychiatric clinic and spread quickly, likely through the use of a highly flammable liquid such as gasoline, the police sources said.

Witnesses told police a man was seen kicking over a paper bag containing a liquid after placing it near a heater in the clinic's waiting room.

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An official investigation of the fire's cause is underway by police and firefighters.

The police searched a house believed to belong to the suspect, which also was scene of another suspicious fire about 30 minutes before the clinic blaze, Kyodo reported.

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