Photo/IllutrationTaiki Sato, president of Apamanshop Leasing Hokkaido, answers questions at a news conference in Sapporo on Dec. 18. (Yoshinori Toyomane)

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

SAPPORO--The president of a real estate company on Dec. 18 apologized for an explosion that injured more than 40 people and was caused by gas released from 120 spray cans kept at a branch office.

“Our company’s disposal work of spray cans set off the explosion and caused so much trouble,” Taiki Sato, 39, president of Apamanshop Leasing Hokkaido, a unit under Apamanshop Leasing Co., said after bowing deeply at a news conference in Sapporo. “I am extremely sorry.”

However, Sato’s apology and explanation for the blast, which destroyed the branch office and a restaurant in Sapporo’s Toyohira Ward on Dec. 16, only fueled anger among residents in the area.

“I did not feel any sincerity from him,” said a 43-year-old woman who watched Sato’s news conference on TV. “I cannot find the words to express my disgust.”

The woman was forced to evacuate her home because the explosion shattered its windows.

Sato said he questioned the 33-year-old manager of the Apamanshop Hiragishi Ekimae branch, the real estate office in the now-collapsed building, on the evening of Dec. 17.

According to Sato, the manager said that he and another employee were working to get rid of deodorizer spray cans on Dec. 16.

Around 8 p.m., about 30 minutes before the explosion, the manager placed 120 spray cans side by side at four locations inside the office, and then started emptying out all of their contents, Sato said.

After the office was filled with fumes, they went outside and returned about 15 to 20 minutes later.

When the manager turned on a water heater to wash his hands, the explosion occurred, Sato said.

However, reporters repeatedly asked Sato why the branch office had to discard 120 spray cans that were still usable.

At first, Sato explained that renovations of the branch were scheduled in two days, and the manager was clearing inventory.

“I am in shock to be honest. Why did they do it? This is inconceivable under normal circumstances,” Sato said.

However, as the news conference went on, doubts were raised about Sato’s explanation.

Prospective customers at the branch can request spray-sanitation measures for properties for fees ranging from 10,000 yen to 20,000 yen ($89 to $178). However, there have been instances in which the branch received payments but did not carry out the cleaning service, Sato acknowledged.

Sato was asked if the office was trying to dispose of such a large number of unused spray cans to cover up a misdeed. He said he did not know.

According to Sato, one can of deodorizer spray costs about 1,000 yen. He also said the manager tearfully apologized, saying he was unaware that the spray cans were flammable.

Asked about compensation, Sato said, “I want to take appropriate action for each case.”

Most of the victims were customers at a restaurant in the building. But the blast also damaged several other buildings and vehicles within a 100-meter radius.

A woman in her 30s who has been staying in a shelter with her 9-year-old son since the explosion, said: “We have been forced into a terrible situation. I want him (Sato) to fully understand that.”

(This article was written by Takuji Hiraga, Minami Endo, Hitoshi Tanohata and Kenji Izawa.)