Photo/IllutrationFirefighters spray a burning four-story commercial building in the Shibuya Center-gai district on Dec. 31. (Wataru Sekita)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Two people were taken to the hospital on Dec. 31 as a building in the popular Shibuya Center-gai entertainment district caught fire, just hours before the area was expected to be packed with New Year's revelers.

The fire occurred at about 1:30 p.m. in a four-story commercial building.

Tokyo Fire Department officials said a total of 135 square meters on the second through fourth floors of the building were damaged by fire as was the outer wall of the neighboring five-story building. The fire was under control by about 2:40 p.m.

One man in his 60s was helped from the burning building, but he was conscious and able to speak with firefighters. Another man in his 30s fled the building by himself. The two men were taken to the hospital.

Witnesses said smoke and fire engulfed the building.

Two sisters, 18-year-old Ayaho Kishi and 15-year-old Sakira Kishi, who came to the Shibuya district from Chiba Prefecture, said smoke spewed out of the building and blackened a sign that was hanging from the building.

A 25-year-old man from Kawasaki said, "I came to the fire scene at about 1:30 p.m. when I saw a police car cut across the Center-gai area. At first, I could only see smoke, but the flames gradually became visible. I was really surprised because the fire occurred at Center-gai."