Category: World / December 3, 2012 10:29 AM EST
The death toll in central Japan rose to nine on Monday (December 3) after a tunnel on a major highway in Yamanashi collapsed and caught on fire at the weekend.
Two people were also seriously injured in the smashed 2.8-mile tunnel about 50 miles west of Tokyo on the Chou Expressway, a main road connecting the capital to western Japan.
Japanese fire department officials said that a 361 foot long section of the tunnel's concrete ceiling panels collapsed onto cars at about 8 a.m. on Sunday as they were driving through, trapping people and causing a fire.
The ceiling panels had not been repaired or reinforced since they were built in 1977 but they passed safety checks in September.
Japanese media reported that the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism had ordered highway companies with similar concrete panels to have emergency inspections.