At least nine dead in Japan tunnel collapse

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At least nine people in Japan are confirmed dead after several vehicles were crushed in the collapse of a highway tunnel located between Tokyo and Mt. Fuji, according to the Yamanashi prefectural police.

Five bodies were recovered from a van when parts of a concrete ceiling tumbled inside the Sasago tunnel along the Chuo expressway about 53 miles west of Tokyo, said Yoshihiro Seto, a spokesman for the Yamanashi police. The bodies of three people in a passenger vehicle and the driver of a freezer truck were also recovered, he said.

"Right now, we are removing the fallen pieces and reinforcing parts of the tunnel to prevent secondary accidents," Seto said by phone.

All vehicles have been removed from the tunnel and authorities are investigating whether more victims may be found, he said. The Chuo expressway links Tokyo to Nagoya, Japan's fourth-largest city.

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Japan's transport ministry will issue an emergency inspection of tunnels across the country with a similar design as the nearly 2.5-mile Sasago Tunnel, said Takashi Ito, who works in the planning department at the ministry. The ministry planned to announce the names of the tunnels that will require inspection Sunday afternoon, he said.

Footage of the collapse captured by a surveillance camera showed slabs of concrete dropped onto the road over several tens of meters. Transport Minister Yuichiro Hata was scheduled to visit the site Sunday, according to Ito.

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