Tokyo: At least three people were killed and two women injured when a section of a four-km-long tunnel collapsed in Japan Sunday, media reports said.
The Sasago tunnel in the Chou expressway in Otsuki, about 80 km west of Tokyo, collapsed around 8 am, trapping many cars inside, Xinhua reported citing Kyodo News.
Two people were taken to hospital. Firefighters managed to control a fire triggered by a crash of two vehicles after the ceiling and wall collapsed in a 100-metre section of the tunnel.
The cars were crushed after the 20-cm-thick ceiling collapsed in a 50-60 metre section of the cave.
A woman, who managed to escape the collapse, said she was in a car in which five others were trapped.
Rescuers were earlier forced to withdraw from the tunnel as engineers at the site warned that the tunnel`s structure was unstable and might collapse again.
After hours of suspension, rescue work restarted around 4 pm.
The operator of the highway, Central Nippon Expressway Company, apologised for the incident.
The company said that in a regular check in September, they did not find any defects inside the tunnel.