One of Japan's longest tunnels has collapsed, trapping vehicles amid reports that at least five people have died.

Sections of concrete fell from the ceiling of the Sasago tunnel, 50 miles west of Tokyo, crushing cars and blocking the road with debris, report Sky News.

smoke tokyo

Smoke could be seen billowing from the mouth of the tunnel

The tunnel began to cave at 08:00 local time (23:00 GMT Saturday), report the BBC. A fire is believed to have broken out and charred bodies have been pulled from the mouth of the tunnel by rescue workers.

The operation has been suspended amid fears that more sections of the tunnel could cave in. The entire road has been closed, blocking one of the major routes out of the capital.

tunnell japan

The road has been shut out of Tokyo

Survivors described how they accelerated as they saw the roof collapse ahead of the them. Some were forced to abandon their vehicles and flee the tunnel in dark and freezing conditions.

One man told NHK broadcaster how he walked for an hour to get out of the 2.7 mile tunnel after seeing "a concrete part of the ceiling fall off all of a sudden when I was driving inside. I saw a fire coming from a crushed car".

A spokesman for Yamanashi Prefectural Police told Agence France-Presse: "A number of charred bodies were confirmed inside. The number of dead is not known."


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  • This image taken from the monitoring camera of Central Nippon Expressway's Hachioji branch, Tokyo, shows the fallen roof panels in the Sasago Tunnel, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. At least seven people were feared missing after parts of a tunnel collapsed Sunday on the highway west of Tokyo, trapping vehicles as smoke from a fire inside initially prevented rescuers from approaching. The words at bottom read: Sasago Tunnel (To Tokyo). (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA

  • Police officers and firefighters gather at the exit of the Sasago Tunnel on the Chuo Expressway in Otsuki, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan, Sunday morning, Dec. 2, 2012. Police said that parts of the tunnel collapsed Sunday morning, trapping an unknown number of vehicles as smoke from a fire inside prevented rescuers from approaching. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA

  • Smoke billows out of the Sasago Tunnel on the Chuo Expressway in Koshu, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan, Sunday morning, Dec. 2, 2012. A part of the tunnel collapsed Sunday morning, possibly involving several vehicles and injuring several people, local media said. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA

  • Aerial

    Firefighters and rescuers, top, prepare for rescue operation near the Sasago Tunnel on the Chuo Expressway in Koshu, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. A part of the tunnel collapsed Sunday morning, possibly involving several vehicles and injuring several people, local media said. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA

  • Firefighters and police gather at the entrance of the Sasago Tunnel on the Chuo Expressway in Koshu, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. A part of the tunnel collapsed Sunday morning, possibly involving several vehicles and injuring several people, local media said. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA

  • Police vehicles are parked at the entrance as smoke billows out of the Sasago Tunnel on the Chuo Expressway in Koshu, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. A part of the tunnel collapsed Sunday morning, possibly involving several vehicles and injuring several people, local media said. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA

  • JAPAN-ROAD-ACCIDENT-TUNNEL-FIRE

    Rescue workers and police gather outside the Sasago tunnel along the Chuo highway near the city of Otsuki in Yamanashi prefecture, 80 kms west of Tokyo on December 2, 2012 after part of the tunnel collapsed. Japanese rescuers found several charred bodies in the highway tunnel that collapsed early in the day, crushing cars and triggering a blaze, and sparking fears of another cave-in. AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO (Photo credit should read YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • JAPAN-ROAD-ACCIDENT-TUNNEL-FIRE

    Police and fire workers stand alongside emergency services vehicles outside the entrance of the collapsed Sasago tunnel (back) on the Chuo expressway in Koshu city, Yamanashi prefecture, west of Tokyo on December 2, 2012. Seven people are missing after concrete ceiling panels along a section of highway tunnel collapsed in Japan. The accident occurred on Tokyo-bound lanes inside the Sasago tunnel on the Chuo Expressway, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) west of the capital, at around 8:00 am on December 2, an official at the expressway traffic police said. AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRESS ==JAPAN OUT== (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • JAPAN-ROAD-ACCIDENT-TUNNEL-FIRE

    Rescue workers and police gather outside the Sasago tunnel along the Chuo highway near the city of Otsuki in Yamanashi prefecture, 80 kms west of Tokyo on December 2, 2012 after part of the tunnel collapsed. Japanese rescuers found several charred bodies in the highway tunnel that collapsed early in the day, crushing cars and triggering a blaze, and sparking fears of another cave-in. AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO (Photo credit should read YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • JAPAN-ROAD-ACCIDENT-TUNNEL-FIRE

    Rescue workers and police gather outside the Sasago tunnel along the Chuo highway near the city of Otsuki in Yamanashi prefecture, 80 kms west of Tokyo on December 2, 2012 after part of the tunnel collapsed. Japanese rescuers found several charred bodies in the highway tunnel that collapsed early in the day, crushing cars and triggering a blaze, and sparking fears of another cave-in. AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO (Photo credit should read YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • JAPAN-ROAD-ACCIDENT-TUNNEL-FIRE

    Police vehicles block the road leading to the entrance of the collapsed Sasago tunnel on the Chuo expressway in Koshu city, Yamanashi prefecture, some 80-kilometres west of Tokyo on December 2, 2012 after a 100-metre long section of highway tunnel collapsed. At least seven people are missing after concrete ceiling panels along a section of highway tunnel collapsed in Japan on December 2. AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO (Photo credit should read YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • JAPAN-ROAD-ACCIDENT-TUNNEL-FIRE-MISSING

    Fire workers prepare for their rescue operation outside the exit of the collapsed Sasago tunnel on the Chuo expressway in Otsuki city, Yamanashi prefecture, some 80-kilometre west of Tokyo on December 2, 2012. At least seven people are missing after concrete ceiling panels along a section of highway tunnel collapsed in Japan. The accident occurred on Tokyo-bound lanes inside the Sasago tunnel on the Chuo Expressway, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) west of the capital, at around 8:00 am on December 2, an official at the expressway traffic police said. ==JAPAN OUT== AFP PHOTO / YOMIURI SHIMBUN (Photo credit should read YOMIURI SHIMBUN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • JAPAN-ROAD-ACCIDENT-TUNNEL-FIRE

    Rescue workers and policeman gather alongside emergency services vehicles on the road leading to the entrance of the collapsed Sasago tunnel on the Chuo expressway in Koshu city, Yamanashi prefecture, some 80-kilometres west of Tokyo on December 2, 2012. At least seven people are missing after concrete ceiling panels along a section of highway tunnel collapsed in Japan on December 2. AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO (Photo credit should read YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • JAPAN-ROAD-ACCIDENT-TUNNEL-FIRE-MISSING

    Smoke billows from the entrance of the collapsed Sasago tunnel as police and fire workers (bottom) gather in preparation for their rescue operation on the Chuo expressway in Koshu city, Yamanashi prefecture, some 80-kilometre west of Tokyo on December 2, 2012. At least seven people are missing after concrete ceiling panels along a section of highway tunnel collapsed in Japan. The accident occurred on Tokyo-bound lanes inside the Sasago tunnel on the Chuo Expressway, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) west of the capital, at around 8:00 am on December 2, an official at the expressway traffic police said. ==JAPAN OUT== AFP PHOTO / Motoki Nakashima / YOMIURI SHIMBUN (Photo credit should read Motoki Nakashima/AFP/Getty Images)

  • JAPAN-ROAD-ACCIDENT-TUNNEL-FIRE

    Police officers (L) walk on the road leading to the entrance (R) of the collapsed Sasago tunnel on the Chuo expressway in Koshu city, Yamanashi prefecture, some 80-kilometres west of Tokyo on December 2, 2012. At least seven people are missing after concrete ceiling panels along a section of highway tunnel collapsed in Japan on December 2. AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO (Photo credit should read YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • JAPAN-ROAD-ACCIDENT-TUNNEL-FIRE

    Rescue workers and policeman gather alongside emergency services vehicles on the road leading to the entrance of the collapsed Sasago tunnel on the Chuo expressway in Koshu city, Yamanashi prefecture, some 80-kilometres west of Tokyo on December 2, 2012. At least seven people are missing after concrete ceiling panels along a section of highway tunnel collapsed in Japan on December 2. AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO (Photo credit should read YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • JAPAN-ROAD-ACCIDENT-TUNNEL-FIRE

    Rescue workers and policeman gather alongside emergency services vehicles on the road leading to the entrance of the collapsed Sasago tunnel on the Chuo expressway in Koshu city, Yamanashi prefecture, some 80-kilometres west of Tokyo on December 2, 2012. At least seven people are missing after concrete ceiling panels along a section of highway tunnel collapsed in Japan on December 2. AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO (Photo credit should read YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Police officers and firefighters gather at the exit of the Sasago Tunnel on the Chuo Expressway in Otsuki, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan, Sunday morning, Dec. 2, 2012. Police said that parts of the tunnel collapsed Sunday morning, trapping an unknown number of vehicles as smoke from a fire inside prevented rescuers from approaching. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA

  • JAPAN-ROAD-ACCIDENT-TUNNEL-FIRE

    A policeman stands guard in front of emergency service vehicles on the road leading to the entrance of the collapsed Sasago tunnel on the Chuo expressway in Koshu city, Yamanashi prefecture, some 80-kilometres west of Tokyo on December 2, 2012. At least seven people are missing after concrete ceiling panels along a section of highway tunnel collapsed in Japan on December 2. AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO (Photo credit should read YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Police vehicles are parked at the entrance as smoke billows out of the Sasago Tunnel on the Chuo Expressway in Koshu, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan, Sunday morning, Dec. 2, 2012. A part of the tunnel collapsed Sunday morning, possibly involving several vehicles and injuring several people, local media said. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA