2 Dec 2012

Seven missing after Japan tunnel collapse

10:02 pm on 2 December 2012

A tunnel on a busy motorway in central Japan has collapsed, sending debris crashing down on cars, triggering a fire and leaving seven people missing.

Television footage has shown black smoke billowing from the nearly five kilometre long tunnel connecting Tokyo to western Japan.

Rescuers say a number of charred bodies have been seen inside the tunnel.

Reuters reports the blaze was put out about three hours after the incident, but rescue operations were then suspended for several hours for fear of further collapses.

Motorists have described narrow escapes from falling debris, and a long walk through the darkness after abandoning their cars.

"When I was driving in the tunnel, concrete pieces fell down suddenly from the ceiling," a man told public broadcaster NHK. "I saw a crushed car catching fire. I was frightened, left my car and walked for about an hour to get out of the tunnel."

Two people have been injured.