Fire destroys large parts of Shuri castle in Japan as blaze engulfs the beloved world heritage site
Fire engulfed the site that's nearly 600-years-old.
A fire has destroyed large parts of Shuri castle on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa.
Flames engulfed the castle, a UNESCO world heritage site located in the island’s capital Naha, at around 2:40 am. The flames quickly spread to other buildings in the complex, local police said.
Almost 4,800 square meters of the facility were destroyed by the blaze, including the main, north and south buildings.
There were no initial reports of injuries, but about 30 nearby residents were evacuated while firefighters spent several hours attempting to bring the fire under control.
While the cause is unknown, the blaze is believed to have started in the castle’s main structure.
Nearly a dozen fire engines were dispatched to the scene and the blaze has since been extinguished.
“The cause of the fire has not been determined yet but a security company alarm went off at around 2.30 in the morning,” Ryo Kochi, a spokesman with the Okinawa prefectural police said.
The castle has historically symbolised the ancient Ryukyu kingdom and the island’s recovery from WW2. More recently, the castle has come to symbolise Okinawa’s struggle to overcome the devastation of war.
The castle long served as the heart of the Ryukyu Kingdom, which ruled the island prefecture from 1429 to 1879, but was destroyed in the Battle of Okinawa in the closing days of World War II. The structures were reconstructed in 1992, and the castle ruins were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
“Five hundred years of Ryukyuan history [12th-17th century] are represented by this group of sites and monuments.The ruins of the castles, on imposing elevated sites, are evidence for the social structure over much of that period, while the sacred sites provide mute testimony to the rare survival of an ancient form of religion into the modern age," the Unesco website says.
“I am extremely saddened by this. I am utterly in shock. We have lost our symbol," Naha Mayor Mikiko Shiroma told reporters.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference in Tokyo that the government will do all it can to reconstruct the castle.
Clip via South China Morning Post