The Japanese authorities are investigating the cause of the fire at the facility in Sapporo in Hokkaido, while more than 40 fire trucks, ambulances and police cars have been deployed to the scene after a person alerted the emergency services that there was smoke coming out of the center, Efe reported.
At the time of the event, the facility was accommodating 16 people, its maximum capacity. The identities of eight men and three women who died are still unknown.
Another five residents were rescued alive, but three men between 50 and 80 years old were injured, although not seriously, and had to be taken to hospital.
The facility, a social welfare center designed to provide shelter for low-income people who have no family to care for them, was completely destroyed by the fire despite efforts to extinguish it, according to the firefighting team.
The three-storey building, a renovated former old Japanese hotel (Ryokan), had a dining room and social areas on the ground floor and rooms on the first and second floors, a representative of the non-profit organisation Homeless Support Hokkaido Network, which operates the center, said.
The victims were all residents of the center because no worker normally spends the night at the facility, according to information from the organisation.
The city of Sapporo already saw a similar incident in March 2010, when a fire killed seven residents of a nursing home for elderly people with dementia.