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Tokyo blast kills 44

Authorities are investigating reports there were no emergency exits in the building
Authorities are investigating reports there were no emergency exits in the building  


TOKYO, Japan (CNN) -- Authorities in Japan are trying to determine the cause of an explosion and fire at a gambling club in Tokyo that killed at least 44 people.

The explosion -- in a mahjong parlor on the third floor of a building in one of Tokyo's liveliest entertainment districts, called Kabukicho -- occurred at about 1:00 a.m. (1700 GMT) Saturday, local media reported.

Described as one of Japan's deadliest fires in decades, 32 males and 12 females died, most by carbon monoxide poisoning. Three more remain in hospital.

Several people jumped from windows to escape the blaze and fumes and some were rescued from the roof of the building, local media reported.

Local media also report that the building housed a number of entertainment shops, including restaurants and sex establishments.

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Tokyo emergency crews respond to the scene in the Kabukicho entertainment district (Japanese audio) (August 31)

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Police and fire department officials say the cause of the explosion remains unknown, and is under investigation.

According to Japanese media reports, the explosion occurred after an employee opened the door to the mahjong parlor. Fire spread through the third and fourth floors.

Authorities are also investigating reports that there were no emergency exits in the building and that the stairway was clogged with lockers and other debris.

Many of the bodies remain unidentified. Authorities have set up an emergency hotline to help identify the victims.

Mahjong is a popular Chinese board game played around East Asia which sometimes involves gambling.







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