Japan drafted in troops on Thursday to help contain a rapidly spreading fire, fanned by strong winds, which engulfed dozens of buildings and forced evacuation of hundreds of people from a northern city.
Aerial footage broadcast live on Japanese TV showed massive orange flames and thick smoke spewing out of buildings in the city of Itoigawa in Niigata prefecture.
Troops were on their way to the coastal city after Niigata governor Ryuichi Yoneyam requested military aid, an official in the fire division of the prefectural government said.
“At the moment, activities to put out the fire are still going on,” he said. “About 50 houses and buildings have been damaged.”
The blaze started at 10:28 am at a Chinese restaurant, and a total of 17 fire trucks have been deployed in the area.
The blaze spread quickly due to strong winds, according to public broadcaster NHK. “Sparks of fire flew around,” a man in the neighbourhood told NHK. “That is why far away buildings unexpectedly caught fire and it became large-scale. I have never seen something like this before.”
The city also issued an evacuation advisory to 586 residents in the neighbourhood. Despite the scale of the fire, there were few reported injuries.
Two women in their 40s were slightly injured. One fell sick after inhaling smoke and a prefectural government employee fell and hit her head, according to the fire division official.