24 Oct 2016

Japan blasts: One dead in Utsunomiya city

6:50 am on 24 October 2016

Multiple blasts in the Japanese city of Utsunomiya have killed one person and injured at three, emergency services say.

Policemen investigate an explosion site at a park in Utsunomiya, some 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of Tokyo on October 23, 2016

Policemen investigate an explosion site at a park in Utsunomiya, 100 km north of Tokyo. Photo: AFP

Police believe the blasts may be linked to an apparent suicide.

The explosions took place almost simultaneously at about 11:30 (local time) in the city in Tochigi prefecture, north of Tokyo.

Two cars in a nearby parking area also caught fire at the same time, police said.

The Japanese broadcaster NHK said police found a suicide note at the scene, and one of the damaged vehicles was owned by a 72-year-old man, believed to be a former member of the Self-Defence Forces.

His house in the city of Utsunomiya had been destroyed in a fire shortly before the explosions, the broadcaster said.

The blast in the nearby park seriously injured two men, and a 14-year-old boy suffered minor leg injuries. No one was injured in the car parking area.

A festival celebrating traditional culture had been taking place in the park. A man who was there at the time told NHK that he heard "a big sound" and smelled gunpowder.

The broadcaster also reported that a video camera at nearby Utsunomiya station recorded the sound of three explosions in quick succession - at 11:31, 11:32, and a third "bigger sound" 15 seconds later.

Photographs showed a splintered and broken bench in the area of one of the blasts, while other images posted to social media appeared to show a column of black smoke.

Police have cordoned off the area.