To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Japan orders tunnel inspections after Sasago collapse 


 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, 80 kilometres (50 miles) from the capital on Sunday. 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.

The BBC's Rupert Wingfield Hayes in Tokyo says intrusive inspections of at least 20 tunnels of a similar age and design will now be carried out.

Smoke billows from the Sasago tunnel He says the focus of the investigation into the Sasago incident will consider why an inspection just two months ago did not spot anything wrong.

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

Motohiro Takamisawa, from Central Nippon Expressway (Nexco), 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. Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told a news conference on Monday: "The prime minister ordered the transport ministry to put the utmost efforts to rescue victims, to quickly investigate the cause of the accident and to establish measures to prevent similar accidents and to provide a counselling service to victims."

Rescue crews finally began bringing the bodies of the nine dead out of the tunnel on Monday morning.

Some were reported to have been so badly burned they would take days to identify. Three charred and smashed vehicles could also be seen being pulled from the tunnel's mouth, our correspondent says. Among the dead was a truck driver who had on Sunday called his company from his mobile phone saying he was trapped.

Five bodies were also recovered from a van. They were identified as three men and two women, all in their 20s and from Tokyo, Kyodo news agency reported. Another woman, 28, who had been in the vehicle survived.

Three bodies were found in another car. A fire broke out after the tunnel caved in at 08:00 local time on Sunday (23:00 GMT Saturday). A number of survivors fled to safety on foot. Pictures from closed circuit TV cameras showed a section of up to 100m (328ft) had caved in on the Tokyo-bound lanes on the Chuo Expressway in Yamanashi prefecture.

The twin-bore Sasago tunnel is one of the longest in Japan at 4.3km (2.7 miles). (BBC)