Five feared trapped, cars ablaze in Japan tunnel collapse

TOKYO - At least five people were feared trapped and an unknown number of cars were ablaze after a 100-metre long section of highway tunnel collapsed in Japan on Sunday, media and emergency services said.

At least three vehicles were crushed and three people were injured in the accident, public broadcaster NHK said.

The accident occurred on Tokyo-bound lanes inside the Sasago tunnel on the Chuo Expressway, some 80km west of the capital, at around 8.00 am (7am Singapore time), an official at the expressway traffic police said.

"We don't know exactly how many vehicles are on fire," he told AFP by telephone.

NHK footage from inside the tunnel showed a white ambulance and several firefighters wearing protective gear, working in an section shrouded in smoke.

A number of cars with their lights flashing were also seen.

Several Japanese media reported that a 100m section of tunnel had caved in, but there was no immediate confirmation from authorities.

Kyodo News reported that firefighters had said there were "at least five" people trapped in the tunnel.

A 28-year-old woman was taken to hospital by ambulance after she emerged from the 4.3km-long tunnel by herself, the traffic police official said.

The 28-year-old women told the fire rescue unit she had been riding in a rented van with five other people, fire department official Kazuya Tezuka told AFP by telephone.

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