May 13

This Day in History

Disaster

May 13, 1972:

Fire breaks out at club in Japan

On this day in 1972, a fire breaks out at the Playtown Cabaret in Osaka, Japan, that kills 118 people. Only 48 people at the trendy nightclub survived the horrific blaze because safety equipment was faulty and safety procedures were not followed.

The top floor of Osaka's Sennichi department store was the home of the hip, if slightly seedy, Playtown Cabaret. A favorite of the city's young people, a large crowd was there on May 13 while an electrician toiled in the department store, three floors below. Inadvertently, the worker set off a fire that reached some oil-soaked rags in a nearby storage room.

The fire quickly spread, climbing both the elevator shafts and the outside walls of the building. The only remaining means of egress for the young people upstairs were the fire exits and emergency chute. The fire exits were hidden by drapes and almost no one in the club found them. Twenty people did locate the emergency chute, but it collapsed as they made their way to the ground and all of them were killed.

Other people sought to escape the smoke and flames by jumping to the roof of a nearby building, but it was too far and all who tried were killed.

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