Deadly blasts in Japanese city may have been suicide

Japanese police investigate the site of an explosion at a park in Utsunomiya. Picture: Getty

Japanese police investigate the site of an explosion at a park in Utsunomiya. Picture: Getty

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Two apparent explosions have hit the Japanese city of Utsunomiya back-to-back, killing one person and injuring three others in what police are viewing as a possible suicide.

Japanese media reports suggest that the victim, believed to be a 72-year-old former military officer, may have set his house on fire, blown up his car in a public parking lot and then blown himself up in a nearby park.

A note found in the clothing of the badly burned victim included the name of the former officer, Japanese broadcaster NHK and other media reported. The name was not disclosed. One of the cars destroyed in a fiery blaze in the parking lot belonged to the retired military man, and his house burned to the ground earlier, the reports said.

One person was killed and at least two injured by two near-simultaneous blasts in a Japanese park today, the local fire department said.

The fire department spokesman added: “One person was found dead.” However, he did not elaborate further.

The back-to-back loud bangs in the park and parking lot shocked bystanders, many heading to a festival at the park on a sunny autumn day. The apparent blasts occurred around 11:30am yesterday within about 200 meters of each other. The festival was cancelled after the incidents.

Two men were seriously injured in the park explosion, and a 14-year-old boy had minor leg injuries. No one was hurt at the small parking lot.

Kyodo News agency said the burned body was found after police received a call saying a person was on fire following what sounded like an explosion.

Bystanders also reported hearing loud blasts from the parking lot. Flames and black smoke shot into the air and repeated bangs could be heard on video posted on the Asahi newspaper’s website. Nearby cars also were damaged.

Utsunomiya, the capital of Tochigi prefecture, is a city of some 500,000 people about 60 miles north of Tokyo. It is near the popular tourist destination of Nikko.

Suicide rates have declined in Japan in recent years, but remain among the highest in the world, with around 30,000 people a year taking their own lives.

Experts have pointed to the financial stress of surviving on small pensions for pushing some retired people to end their lives. In 2015, a 71-year-old man set himself on fire on a bullet train in an incident that also claimed the life of a 52-year-old woman travelling in the same carriage.

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