The emergency ceiling inspections have found that west-bound passage of the Sasago Tunnel on the Chuo Expressway in Yamanashi Prefecture is riddled with problems in 670 points of the tunnel, revealed by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, and Central Nippon Expressway Co. on Thursday. The emergency inspections came after a horrific accident, where concrete ceiling panels in the east-bound passageway collapsed in the morning of December 2nd and killed 9 people.
According to the government and the highway operator, 632 of the problems involved bolts used to secure the steel structure that attached the concrete ceiling panels to the tunnel roof. 2 bolts had been easily pulled off by hand, 608 were loose and the rest had partially come off because of corrosion. Work is now being done to remove the panels that fell on the west-bound passageway. The tunnel operator said that it had visually inspected both passageways in September but failed to conduct hammer tests that would have identified the problems. The land and transport ministry said that it plans to further investigate.
The transport ministry added that it has already completed emergency checks on 57 of 59 other tunnels having similar structures as the Sasago Tunnel and that it has also found problems and defects in 14 of them. It insured, however, that there are no immediate and major safety risks therein.
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