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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS

Fire, Explosion Kills 44 in Tokyo Nightclub

Aired September 1, 2001 - 08:33   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Fire investigators in Japan say they're looking into all possible causes, including arson, in the fire and explosion that killed 44 people in a Tokyo nightclub.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: We get the very latest now on that investigation from CNN's Rebecca MacKinnon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REBECCA MACKINNON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A grizzly end to a night out on the town in Tokyo's racy Kabukicho nightclub district. Most of the people taken to the hospital died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Around 1:00 a.m. Saturday morning, a mah-jongg parlor on the third floor of this building exploded, setting the third and fourth floors ablaze. A few people tried to save themselves by jumping out of the building.

This eyewitness says I heard an explosion, then a smashing sound and then I saw something fall out of the building. Then I realized it was a person. That place has no emergency exits, says this man. Last time I went there the elevator was out of order and only two or three people could get through the stairwell at a time.

The Kabukicho disaster was Japan's worst fire tragedy in 30 years. Prime Minister Koizumi, who was scheduled to appear at an anti-disaster drill, expressed his condolences to the victims. "I want the ministries and agencies to carry out a thorough investigation into the case," he said.

That investigation is now under way by police and fire department authorities. They will not comment on the cause of the fire, but are reported to have found a broken gas pipe. The floor above the explosion, which was also gutted by fire, held what's called a hostess bar where men pay women to drink with them.

(on camera): Many of the dead are still unidentified. Police have set up a hotline so that people can call and find out whether missing friends or loved ones died while having a bit of late night fun.

Rebecca MacKinnon, CNN, Tokyo.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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