A castle first built centuries before Okinawa was annexed by Japan has been devastated by fire. Police say a fire that broke out around 2:30am Friday has destroyed much of Shuri Castle, which was erected under the Ryukyu Dynasty around 500 years ago, the Guardian reports. The wooden structure, which was reconstructed after it was almost completely destroyed by US forces in World War II, was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. Authorities say the cause of the fire is unclear, though it may be linked to work at the castle related to a tourist event. Authorities say the main structure of the castle and other structures in the complex, including a temple, have been almost completely wiped out.
The building, which was the seat of the Ryukyu kings for more than 400 years, is located in Naha, the island's capital, CNN reports. It was used as a base for the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II and was extensively shelled by US forces. Reconstruction work was not completed until 1992. "Shuri Castle has been there through everything, and was a symbol of identity for the Okinawa people," says BBC correspondent Saiko Shiraishi. "Those who saw the end of WW2 in Okinawa have seen the Castle burn twice in their lifetime. Their sorrow is beyond imagination." Okinawa's tourist website says the castle also burned down three times during the Ryukyu Dynasty. (Read more Japan stories.)