TOKYO: Dozens of Tokyo firefighters were battling a blaze on Thursday (Aug 3) at the world's largest fish market and one of the capital's most popular tourist sites, as grey smoke billowed over the city.
Efforts to contain the flames were hampered by the area's narrow streets and tight-knit buildings.
The Tokyo Fire Department said it was notified around 4.50pm local time (0750 GMT) of the fire that originated in a three-storey building in an area adjacent to the market.
Dozens of fire trucks were deployed to tackle the blaze which spread to five buildings covering 300sqm. No injuries have been reported so far, it added. The cause was not immediately known.
The fire was in Tsukiji's "outer" market - an area packed with informal restaurants where tourists can tuck into fresh seafood plates and sushi.
The Tsukiji "inner" market, where most seafood wholesalers are located and tuna auctions are carried out at dawn, was not affected.
"I could tell immediately that it's a fire," said Kiyoshi Kimura, the head of the Sushizanmai restaurant chain, who was at his office in the area when the fire broke out. "So I called managers and had everyone evacuated from our restaurants," Kimura told AFP.
The fire comes after Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said in June that the fish market - the world's biggest - will be moved to a new location.
Plans to uproot the decades-old market have been in the works for years, with advocates citing the need for upgraded technology as they pointed to Tsukiji's antiquated refrigeration systems.
Tsukiji draws tens of thousands of visitors a year to its warren of stalls laden with exotic species of fish, huge tuna and fresh sushi, part of a tourism boom that is a key part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's economic plan.
Koike said last summer that the current site would eventually be redeveloped to capitalise on Tsukiji's globally recognised brand.