At least 23 people are feared to have died and dozens more have been injured in a fire at an animation studio in the Japanese city of Kyoto.

Fire department official Satoshi Fujiwara said several other people were missing.

Kyodo news agency reported that the bodies of up to 10 people were found on the second floor of the building, citing police.

The blaze broke out at 10:30am local time on Thursday after a man burst into Kyoto Animation and reportedly shouted die! as he poured what appeared to be petrol around the studio.

More than 70 people were in the three-storey building at the time, with many fleeing the premises when the alarm was raised.

Mr Fujiwara said up to 18 people were not accounted for, but it was unclear if all those had reported to work.

A further 36 people were hurt in the blaze, some of them critically with many of them suffering from burns.

A 41-year-old suspect is reported to be in custody and is being investigated on suspicion of arson. He was also injured and taken to hospital for treatment.

Footage showed smoke billowing from the fire-ravaged building, and emergency services at the scene battling the blaze and tending to the injured.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe described the fire as too appalling for words on Twitter and offered his condolences to the families of the victims.

Kyoto Animation, known as KyoAni, was founded in 1981 as an animation and comic book production studio.

It is known for stories featuring high school girls including Lucky Star, K-On! and Haruhi Suzumiya.

The studio also produces the Sound! Euphonium series and its Free! Road to the World – The Dream movie is due for release this month.

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(c) Sky News 2019: Several feared dead in suspected arson attack on Japanese animation studio