A huge fire has destroyed part of the famous Shuri Castle in Japan.
Dramatic pictures showed the 600-year-old fortress well alight tonight as firefighters battled the flames.
Only hot ember beams remained of the monument’s main hall in Naha, the capital of Okinawa Prefecture in southern Japan.
The fire broke out at 2.40am local time (5.40pm UK) and was still burning hours later.
The main hall of the 14th century castle was completely engulfed in flames by 4.30am (7.30pm UK).
According to the police, this fire also burned down the north hall of the castle.
Mr. Yabiku Taumi, 18, from Naha City, said noticed smoke coming from the castle at around 3am when he was in a nearby park.
After he realised the castle was engulfed in flames he said: “It’s just a skeleton, it 's a shock.'”
Firefighters were still battling the blaze as Japan approached dawn.
According to local police, it was the castle guards who first noticed the fire.
They said it was caused by a thermal reaction with the security system sensor.
Tomoko Miyazato, 84, who watched Shuri Castle as it burned said: “For us, Shuri Castle is like a god.”
Footage from the scene showed parts of the building crumbling to the floor as the fire destroyed at least two of the five buildings.
The castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which was the most important palace of the Ryukyu Kingdom.
The independent kingdom ruled most of the Ryukyu Islands from the 15th to 19th century.
In 1945, during the Battle of Okinawa, it had been almost completely destroyed before being re-purposed as a university campus.
Before the fire the attraction was a huge draw for tourists who could also see ruins that are based on the site.
It was not known whether anyone was injured in the fire.
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