Thursday, 9 August 2018

Tokyo Data Centre Fire Kills 5 and Injures Dozens

A tragic fire that filled the Tokyo sky with thick, black smoke late in July 2018 has tragically resulted in five fatalities and dozens of injuries. The blaze extensively damaged a building believed to be a data centre possibly belonging to Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Fire officials were unable to confirm ownership of the building due to confidentiality restrictions, but numerous Japanese news outlets are claiming they had been told by industry insiders that Amazon is the owner. Construction on the incomplete building began in 2017 and was expected to be finished by October 2018.

A Devastating Fire

The fire, which occurred in the Tokyo suburb of Tama, began during the early afternoon hours on 26th July. It is believed that the blaze started in the third of four basement levels. The building has a total of seven floors – four underground and three above.

Reports say that some 300 workers were on site when the fire broke out. Unfortunately, four bodies were found in the basement and a fifth on the third-above-ground floor. In addition to the deaths, a total of 50 workers were treated for injuries. Nearly two dozen are said to be in serious condition.

As fires go, this one was particularly devastating in that it raged for eight hours. Reports say that one-third of the building suffered damage. However, assessments are still ongoing more than a week after the blaze. As for Amazon's ownership of the building, it has still not been confirmed. Amazon has been contacted by both Japanese and American news organisations but has yet to respond.

Fire officials have still not released the exact cause of the blaze pending the outcome of their investigation. However, initial reports suggest that workers cutting steel beams in the third basement level may have ignited urethane insulation materials. One news report out of Tokyo indicated that fire investigators are considering professional negligence among steelworkers as the main cause of the fire.

Amazon in Japan

Speculation of Amazon's ownership of the damaged building is fuelled in part by the success the company has enjoyed in Japan. AWS first entered the Japanese market with a data centre built in 2011. They followed that with a second installation in Singapore. According to The Stack, AWS maintains a concentration of four ‘availability zones’ in the greater Tokyo area, rivalling their operations in northern Virginia.

From a business standpoint, AWS is doing very well in Japan. The number of customers accessing AWS services has increased some 500% over the last five years. Experts attribute the company's success to deals with Sony and a number of big names in the Japanese financial sector.

The fire in Tokyo is truly a tragedy for the dozens of families affected by it. Investigators will hopefully pinpoint the exact cause of the blaze and make recommendations as to how future incidents can be avoided. In the meantime, all eyes are on Amazon to see if they will offer any kind of official response.

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