Historic Japanese castle goes up in flames

Shuri Castle, a World Heritage site on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, was consumed by flames , leaving islanders grieving


dpa, Hamburg, Germany

Tokyo — A predawn blaze that burned down main structures at Shuri Castle, a World Heritage site on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, left islanders grieving on Thursday.

The fire destroyed seven main structures occupying some 4,800 square meters on a hill in the city of Naha, but there were no reports of injuries, Kyodo News reported.

"We are shocked" at the loss of the castle, Naha Mayor Mikiko Shiroma told reporters.

"We have lost a symbol of the history of Okinawa," she added.

The fire started shortly before 2:40 am (1740 GMT Wednesday) at the castle in Naha, the prefectural capital of Okinawa, forcing dozens of residents to evacuate their homes.

The fire was extinguished some 11 hours later at around 1:30 pm, according to the city’s fire department.

Local authorities suspect the fire began in the main hall, though they are still looking into the cause, Kyodo reported.

The incident took place in the middle of the annual castle festival starting Sunday. Organizers were forced to cancel the event.

Shuri Castle is a major tourist destination on Okinawa. It represents the Ryukyu Kingdom, which spanned 450 years until the independent kingdom was annexed by Japan in 1879.

US forces bombed the castle during the 1945 Battle of Okinawa and it was reconstructed in 1992 and designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000.

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©2019 Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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