On Sunday, December 2nd, at 8 a.m. nine people died after a highway tunnel collapsed near Mt. Fuji.
Almost 270 concrete slabs, which means almost 400 tons, collapsed crushing cars and starting a fire in Japan’s worst tunnel disaster in 16 years. The Sasago tunnel is situated on the Chuo expressway, about 53 miles (85 kilometers) west of Tokyo. Five of the victims were found in a van, three in a passenger car and the ninth victim was the driver of a freezer truck.
“Right now, we are removing the fallen pieces and reinforcing parts of the tunnel to prevent secondary accidents,” said Satoshi Noguchi, a spokesman for Central Nippon Expressway Co., which operates the toll road.
Authorities have removed all vehicles from the 4-kilometer tunnel, as they look for other victims. Officials do not know exactly why the tunnel collapsed as it was inspected by Central Nippon in September. Emergency checks will be made today on all tunnels with a similar design, at least 20 in number. The fire was extinguished at around 11 a.m. and authorities are still investigating how the fire started.
“We still do not know the cause of the accident. We have begun the preparation for the inspections of the tunnels,” said Satoshi Noguchi.