Police have confirmed the deaths of nine people by early Monday in an expressway tunnel in central Japan where the concrete ceiling collapsed, trapping vehicles and starting a fire.
The police confirmed nine bodies in three vehicles trapped inside the 4.7-kilometer Sasago Tunnel on the Chuo Expressway in Yamanashi Prefecture.
In a vehicle believed to have been carrying six people, local police and firefighters found five bodies -- three men and two women, all in their 20s from Tokyo -- while a 28-year-old woman employed by a bank in Kanagawa Prefecture survived.
CCTV footage from within the tunnel
A highway tunnel collapsed in central Japan on Sunday morning, involving passing vehicles and causing a fire inside the tunnel.
Yamanashi expressway tunnel caves in
Police in Yamanashi Prefecture said the 4.3-kilometer Sasago Tunnel on the Chuo Expressway collapsed around 8 AM on Sunday.
Witnesses say at least 3 vehicles were involved in the disaster and that black smoke was spewing from within the tunnel.
Rescue workers are at the scene. They have been able to get to about 300 meters from the site, but smoke is preventing further progress and blocking rescue and fire-fighting efforts.
Police say a woman who left the tunnel on foot was taken to hospital. She was reportedly conscious. A report says 2 women were being sent to hospital.
Reports say additional people have been walking out of the tunnel.
An NHK reporter said the inside wall of the tunnel suddenly collapsed while he was passing through it. He said he was not involved, but that vehicles nearby were. He also said that black smoke is coming from a possible fire.
Traffic on the highway was closed around the site.
A civil engineering expert calls Sunday's tunnel collapse an unprecedented accident, and says a review of safety checks is needed for tunnels across Japan.
Kazuo Tani, a specialist in rock engineering, says the metal fittings that held the roof panels may have deteriorated. Another possibility is that the tunnel had changed shape and caused the parts to dislodge.
Tani explains that tunnels could change shape over time due to pressure from the surrounding mountains.
He says the roof collapsed in a V-shape, and this suggests that pressure from the sides may have accumulated at the center and caused the panels to come off.
He says although the details of the collapse remain unknown, he has never seen an accident like this.
He adds that it's unthinkable for a tunnel to cave in without an earthquake.
Tani calls for emergency checks on other tunnels that were built with a similar method.
The Central Nippon Expressway says its officials carry out visual checks of tunnels during annual safety inspections. Detailed checks are conducted every 5 or 6 years. Officials use hammers to make sure that the metal fittings are in good condition.
The tunnel operator says it conducted a detailed inspection of the Sasago Tunnel in September. Officials reportedly climbed onto the roof panels to look for possible cracks. They also used hammers to check metal parts, but found no irregularities.
The highway operator suspects that the accident was caused by loosened bolts that hold the concrete panels to the tunnel's inner wall.
The bolts have not been replaced since the tunnel's opening 35 years ago. The operator says its workers found no problems in the concrete panel ceilings during a visual inspection in September. In the inspection, they also tapped the surface with hammers to detect irregularities within.
But it also says only a visual examination was made of the inner walls, to which the bolts were affixed.
The highway operator plans to conduct emergency checks on all its tunnels with similar ceiling structures.
Many tunnels, raised roadways and bridges in Japan were built in the 1960s and 70s when the country was undergoing rapid economic growth. The maintenance of such infrastructure is now becoming a critical issue in terms of transport safety.
tl:dr. means. Too Long ;Didn't Read.
tl;dr version = repeat what you said in 3sentences max
Umm............, it a major story you cant put it in 3 sentences. Just watch the videos if you dont wana read.