Japanese authorities are looking into the cause of an early morning fire that has destroyed Okinawa’s Shuri Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site and a popular tourist destination in Okinawa.
According to reports, the blaze broke out at the historic site this morning (Oct. 31) around 2:40 a.m. local time, with fire crews battling the flames until around 11 a.m. NHK, Japan’s national broadcaster, reported that seven buildings (which also housed numerous artifacts chronicling Okinawa’s history) on the site burned to the ground, including the iconic main hall. A cause for the fire is yet to be determined.
The New York Times reported that city officials said that no sprinklers had been installed inside the castle, save for a few installed under the roof of the main building to prevent fire entering from outside.
The wooden castle, built more than 500 years ago, once served as the seat of power for the Ryukyu Kingdom, following the Ryukyu Islands’ annexation by Japan. The site has been previously destroyed, including most recently during the Battle of Okinawa during World War II, after which it was restored to its original condition in 1992 and opened as a national park. The castle was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2000.
Mayor Mikiko Shiroma of Naha, the capital city of Okinawa Prefecture, told local newspapers that the city will consult with the Japanese federal government regarding reconstruction of the site.
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