Japan refinery tunnel collapses, 5 missing

2012-02-07 10:45

Tokyo - Divers were searching for five workers after an undersea tunnel collapsed at one of Japan's biggest oil refineries on Tuesday, emergency services said.

Six people were in the partially constructed tunnel at Kurashiki, 550km west of Tokyo, when it caved in but one managed to get out, a spokesperson for the city fire department said.

The survivor "said that sea water came gushing in" and flooded the tunnel, according to the spokesperson.

The accident happened at an oil refinery operated by JX Nippon Oil and Energy Corporation.

"Police divers have begun their work searching for the missing," he said.

The tunnel, designed ultimately to be U-shaped, was about 11m in diameter and 30m deep, the spokesperson said. It stretched for about 140m.

The spokesperson said water could be seen around 3m from the top of the vertical entrance shaft.

Kurashiki, in western Okayama prefecture, is a popular spot for both domestic and international tourists.