02/12/2012 04:56 GMT | Updated 02/12/2012 05:04 GMT

Japan's Sasago Tunnel Collapses Outside Tokyo Causing At Least Five Deaths

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."