One of Japan’s longest road tunnels collapses
Operation vehicles continue with the rescue as they enter the Sasago tunnel along the Chuo highway near the city of Otsuki in Yamanashi prefecture, 80 kms west of Tokyo on December 2, 2012 after part of the tunnel collapsed. AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRESS
When concrete ceiling panels crashed down inside one of Japan’s longest road tunnels on December 3, killing at least 9, safety issues naturally arose. Witnesses spoke of terrifying scenes as at least one vehicle burst into flames inside the nearly 5-kilometer tunnel, which passes through hills near Mount Fuji 80 kilometers west of Tokyo. Questions mounted about whether decaying ceiling supports caused the disaster. An official from highways operator NEXCO said material degradation was a possibility, adding the risk of further collapse remained although the ceiling had undergone its regular 5-yearly inspection in September this year. Earthquakes are common in Japan, though none was reported in the area at the time of the collapse.

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