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Gas released in real estate agency suspected cause of Sapporo blast

Police investigate the site where an explosion occurred the previous night in Sapporo's Toyohira Ward on Dec. 17, 2018. (Mainichi/Taichi Kaizuka)

SAPPORO -- An explosion that occurred in a building in this northern city on Dec. 16, leaving 42 people injured, may have been caused by bacteria-killing gas released inside a real estate agency housed in the structure, investigators alleged.

An employee at the real estate agency was quoted by people close to an investigation into the case as saying that "the explosion occurred after bacteria- and odor-eliminating gas was removed from over 100 spray cans."

This has led Hokkaido Prefectural Police to suspect that the gas caught fire, triggering the blast.

The prefectural police began an on-the-spot inspection of the building in Sapporo's Toyohira Ward, which housed the real estate agency and an izakaya bar, on Dec. 17.

At around 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 16, the explosion occurred in the two-story wooden structure with a floor space of about 360 square meters. The fire was extinguished by around 2:10 a.m. the following day. The real estate agency and the second floor of the restaurant were badly damaged in the blast.

According to investigators, two employees were inside the real estate agency when the explosion occurred. One of them, a man in his 30s, suffered serious burns to his face, and 41 others -- customers and employees of both establishments -- were also injured. Nobody has been reported missing.

Customers at the bar have reported smelling gas after the blast.

According to the Sapporo City Fire Department, there were nine propane gas cylinders outside the building, but they did not sustain major damage.

(Japanese original by Kohei Shinkai and Shuntaro Sawa, Hokkaido News Department)

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