Japan orders tunnels inspected after deadly collapse

Mangled wreck from tunnel accident.

TOKYO –The Japanese government has ordered emergency inspections of road tunnels across the country following a deadly roof collapse west of Tokyo.

Nine people were confirmed dead after concrete panels collapsed and started a fire in the Sasago tunnel, 80km from the capital yesterday.

An inquiry into the Sasago collapse has also been launched.

Officials from the highway operator suggested that metal rods securing the concrete panels may have loosened.

Japanese media report that the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism has ordered highway operators overseeing tunnels similar to Sasago to carry out emergency inspections.

Inspections of at least 20 tunnels of a similar age and design will now be carried out.

Japanese media say that for more than 30 years the company that owns Sasago had relied on rudimentary visual inspections there, with no reinforcement or repairs since construction.

Motohiro Takamisawa, from Central Nippon Expressway, which operates Sasago, said metal rod failure could have been to blame.

“At this moment we’re presuming that the top anchor bolts have come loose,” he said. (BBC)

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