Photo/IllutrationFirefighters battle a blaze at the Kohnan Senri Yamada outlet in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, on Nov. 28. (Hikaru Uchida)

  • Photo/Illustraion

SUITA, Osaka Prefecture--About 10 button batteries in anti-theft tags likely caused a huge fire that gutted a home products retail store here and forced preschoolers and senior citizens to evacuate, police sources said.

The fire started on the morning of Nov. 28 and continued to burn for more than 10 hours, destroying about 3,000 square meters of floor space at the Kohnan Senri Yamada outlet.

No injuries were reported.

A security camera at the store caught images of sparks emerging from a bag on a shelf on the first floor, the sources said. The footage also revealed the fire spreading at the nearby checkout counters.

The bag contained anti-theft tags that were to be discarded. The button batteries, however, were not removed and left exposed in the tags.

“We stored 10 or so anti-theft tags in a bag,” police quoted a store official as saying.

Osaka prefectural police suspect direct contact between the batteries’ electrodes created a large current that resulted in flames.

The National Institute of Technology and Evaluation (NITE), a Tokyo-based independent administrative agency, investigates accidents related to home electrical appliances.

A NITE official said storing more than one battery in the same place could allow their positive and negative electrodes to touch, leading to a large current and possible fire.

“When storing batteries, people should take some measures, such as putting tape on the electrodes, to prevent them from directly touching each other,” the official said.

Smoke from the fire spread to neighboring facilities, including a preschool and nursing-care facility.