34 Evacuated From Japan Apartment After Latest in String of Gas Suicides

Japanese police evacuated 34 people from an apartment building Wednesday after a man apparently killed himself by mixing chemicals and inhaling the deadly fumes, the latest in a string of similar suicides nationwide.

Police said they were called to the scene in Kanazawa City, western Japan, when a resident found a sign on the door of an apartment warning of dangerous gases. After residents noticed a strange smell coming from the apartment, police moved them to a local community center.

The body of a man was found in the apartment, along with cleaning and agricultural chemicals that produce deadly gasses when mixed, police officer Hiroshi Sakashita said.

Japan has long battled a high suicide rate relative to other developed nations, and it is now in the grip of a wave of deaths from mixing commonly available chemicals to form hydrogen sulfide gas. The gas can form noxious clouds and also affect those who happen to be nearby, often triggering mass evacuations.

Government data showed at least 84 such suicides throughout Japan in May. Police have begun cracking down on popular Web sites that give specific instructions for mixing the chemicals and encourage suicides.

A total of 32,155 people killed themselves in 2006 in Japan, giving the country the ninth-highest suicide rate in the world, according to the government.

Tokyo has earmarked $220 million for anti-suicide programs to help those with depression and other emotional problems.