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Several feared dead after Japanese tunnel collapses

A portion of a highway tunnel has collapsed in Japan. Several cars were on fire and black smoke was seen coming from the tunnel. Rescue workers are trying to reach the injured, with at least seven people feared dead.

At least seven people are believed to have been trapped and feared dead after a 100-meter (328 foot) section of the Sasogo tunnel collapsed, around 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of Tokyo. The 4.3-kilometer-long tunnel (2.67 miles) is the country's longest and is part of a major highway that links the capital with central and western Japan.

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Several dead in tunnel collapse in Japan

Footage broadcast by Japanese public broadcaster NHK showed a number of ambulances and several fire trucks at one end of the tunnel.

A police official said one woman had managed to free herself from the wreckage of her car and had been taken by ambulance to a hospital.

NHK reported that two other women had been rescued, but their was no word on their condition.

An NHK reporter said he was driving through the tunnel when it began to collapse around him.

"I managed to drive through the tunnel but vehicles nearby appeared to have been trapped," the reporter said. "Black smoke was coming and there seemed to be a fire inside the tunnel."

An official with the local fire department said the heavy smoke was hampering their efforts to reach the point of the cave-in.

"The tunnel's smoke ventilation system is malfunctioning and we can't see anything one meter in front," Kazuya Tezuka told the AFP news agency.

pfd/jr (AFP, dpa)

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