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December 02, 2012

Highway Tunnel Collapses West of Tokyo

by VOA News

Japanese officials say a highway tunnel collapsed early Sunday west of Tokyo, killing at least three people.

Police had earlier said that they saw a number of charred bodies in a burned-out car.  The death toll could be higher since several people are believed to be missing.

Television reports showed black smoke billowing from the 4.7 kilometer Sasago tunnel in Yamanashi prefecture, about 80 kilometers west of Tokyo.

Firefighters put out the flames at 11 a.m. (0200 UTC), about three hours after the accident occurred, but rescuers had to suspend work in the tunnel for fear of another collapse.

Officials say two people were taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Japan public broadcaster NHK says one of its reporters was driving through the tunnel as it began to disintegrate behind him.  The journalist reported thick smoke and fire after making his escape.  The broadcaster reported a stream of people walking out of the tunnel after abandoning their vehicles.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.