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Tunnel collapse blamed on aging bolts

Published By United Press International
TOKYO, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- After a highway tunnel collapsed in Japan, killing nine people, its operator said at a press conference aging ceiling bolts may have caused the collapse.

Ryoichi Yoshikawa, Central Japan Expressway Co.'s head of maintenance, said Monday of the incident Sunday in the Sasago Tunnel, 85 kilometers (53 miles) west of Tokyo, bolts holding 1.2-ton concrete panels to the ceiling of the tunnel were never replaced, and there are no records of repair work done in the past.

The tunnel opened in 1977, and although the ownership company said the tunnel passed an inspection in September, certain tests on the sections that collapsed were never undertaken.

The collapse occurred Sunday morning, with about 180 concrete panels falling onto traffic within the tunnel. About 30 cars were trapped, and of the nine confirmed deaths, five were from a burning car, the Japan Daily Press said Monday.

Yoshikawa ended his statement with the comment the lack of proper inspection was something the company will reflect upon, what the newspaper called "the most inadequate (of) apologies since the Fukushima crisis."
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