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Major fire engulfs 600 year old castle in Japan

Much of Shuri Castle in Japan has been completely destroyed in a fire. The UNESCO World Heritage site dates back about 600 years.

Fire alarms began in the early hours of October 31st, and over 100 firefighters battled the blaze. However, the three main buildings, all made of wood, could not be saved. No casualties have been reported.

Officials are now looking into the cause of the blaze, which witnesses believe started in the main structure. Preparations for an event inside the castle were being done just hours before the fire started.

Shuri Castle dates back to at least the year 1429, when it became a palace for the Ryukyu Kingdom, which ruled Okinawa and other islands until the 19th century. The castle has been destroyed and rebuilt several times throughout its history, including during the Second World War. It was reconstructed in 1992, and eight years later was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Kurayoshi Takara, a historian at Univerisity of the Ryukyus who helped in the reconstruction of the castle, told Japan’s public broadcaster, “I still can’t accept this as a reality. It has taken more than 30 years and it was a monument of wisdom and effort of many people. Shuri Castle is not just about buildings but it reconstructed all the details, even including equipment inside.”

Mikiko Shiroma, the mayor of local community where the castle stands, told the Japan Times the fire “is extremely regrettable … It is a World Heritage site that represents Okinawa.”

For more updates, please see The Mainichi and The Japan Times

Top Image: Photo by Shun Oi / Flickr

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