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Japan’s Shuri Castle left in smoldering ruins as inferno ravages 600yo UNESCO gem (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

An inferno has erupted inside Japan’s Shuri Castle, completely leveling parts of the 600-year-old UNESCO World Heritage site as emergency responders struggle to contain the flames.

The castle, located in Okinawa’s provincial capital of Naha, went up in flames early Thursday morning. Its main hall and a nearby building have so far been destroyed, while another structure on the site continues to burn.

People in the area were evacuated, but no injuries have yet been reported. Dramatic photos on social media show the castle’s main hall entirely engulfed in flames as its roof began to cave, shortly before collapsing altogether.

Aerial footage taken before and after sunrise depict the progress of the fire as it tore through the site.

By daybreak, the conflagration appears to have been largely contained, though smaller fires could still be seen smoldering in the wreckage.

The Shuri compound is made up of five separate structures, the main hall – also known as the “Seiden” – being the largest and most elaborately decorated. The extent of the damage to the other structures is still unclear.

Though the exact date of its construction remains a mystery, the Shuri Castle has been in use since at least the 14th century, serving as the royal court and seat of government for the Ryukyu Kingdom for some 450 years. The complex was nearly destroyed during World War II after three days of intense shelling by a US warship, but was restored in the decades after the conflict.

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