Japan tunnel disaster prompts nationwide safety inspections


A policeman stands guard in front of the entrance of the collapsed Sasago tunnel on the Chuo expressway in Koshu city, Yamanashi prefecture, on Dec. 2, 2012. Nine people were killed in the collapse and subsequent fire.


Yoshikazu TSUNO

Japan is carrying out emergency inspections of road tunnels after yesterday's deadly collapse.

Nine people were killed and two injured when the roof of the Sasago tunnel, about 50 miles west of Tokyo, caved in over an expressway Sunday morning.

The Japanese government has ordered safety inspections of all tunnels that have similar concrete roof panels, Reuters reported.

There are 49 such tunnels across Japan, according to the Associated Press.

Police are currently investigating the private company that operates the Sasago tunnel, Central Nippon Expressway (Nexco), on suspicion of professional negligence, the Asahi Shimbun reported.

Officials believe the metal anchor bolts that held the concrete slabs in place had corroded and come loose, after more than 35 years without being replaced.

According to the Asahi Shimbun, Nexco says it checked the bolts in September – but has admitted that workers only looked to see whether they were still in place rather than testing for signs of corrosion.

In the Sasago tunnel, a section of the roof around 110 yards long fell and crushed at least two vehicles, starting a fire.

The recovery operation was suspended today while emergency reinforcements were carried out to prevent the roof collapsing on rescue workers, the AP said.

Police said they expected work to resume on Tuesday, though they don't believe they will find any more bodies.

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