At least 24 people are feared to have died and dozens more injured in a fire at an animation studio in the Japanese city of Kyoto.

An official in the country’s fire department, Satoshi Fujiwara said several other people were missing. Kyoto news agency reported that the bodies of up to 10 people were found on the second floor of the building. He said dozens are in hospital, with some in critical condition.

Mr. Fujiwara said up to 18 people have not been accounted for, although it was still not clear if all workers at the building had reported to work. A further 36 people were hurt in the blaze, with many of them suffering from severe burns.

The fire reportedly broke out at 10:30 am local time on Thursday after a man burst into Kyoto Animation and reportedly shouted ‘die!’ as he poured what appeared to be petrol around the studio.

More than 70 people were in the three-storey building at the time of the incident, with many fleeing the premises when the fire alarm was raised.

A 41-year-old suspect is reported to be in custody and is being investigated on suspicion of arson. He was also injured and taken to hospital for treatment.

Footage from the scene showed smoke billowing from the fire-ravaged building and emergency services at the scene battling the blaze and tending to the injured.

Reacting to the incident, the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe described it as ‘too appalling for words’ on Twitter and offered his condolences to the families of all the victims.

Kyoto Animation, known as KyoAni which was founded in 1981 as an animation and comic book production studio. It is known for stories featuring high school girls including Lucky Star, K-On! and Haruhi Suzumiya.

The studio also produces the Sound!, Euphonium series, It’s Free! as well as Road to the World, a movie which is due for release this month.