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Five dead in fire at Japan rice cracker factory

TOKYO (AFP) – Five people have died in a blaze at a rice cracker factory in Japan, police said yesterday, with firefighters working through the night to extinguish the inferno.

Around 30 workers were on site when the fire broke out at the facility in northern Niigata prefecture around midnight, local media reported. The cause of the fire is unclear.

“We confirmed the death of four women between 60s and 70s and we also found an unidentified body,” a police spokesman told AFP without giving further details.

Public broadcaster NHK reported officers were working to identify the body as one of the two missing male workers, with another hospitalised but conscious after inhaling smoke.

The police spokesman said the fire was finally put out 11 hours after it started.

The factory is owned by Sanko Seika – one of Japan’s biggest rice cracker manufacturers – and operates a production line to bake the popular snacks.

Deadly fires are unusual in Japan, which has strict building standards, and violent crime
is rare.

In December, 25 people were killed in a blaze at a mental health clinic in Osaka.

A former patient of the clinic suspected of starting the fire died in the same month before police could interrogate him.