In Japan, rescuers have recovered five bodies from a motorway tunnel which collapsed this morning.

CCTV footgage from inside the tunnel shows firefighters picking their way through cement roof panels which fell onto cars.

Attempts to rescue those still trapped inside the five-kilometre long tunnel have been blocked by a fire and fears of a secondary collapse.

At least seven were missing after about 150 concrete panels fell from the roof of the tunnel on the main highway linking Tokyo with central Japan.

Efforts to rescue any survivors trapped inside the tunnel were hindered by heavy smoke after one vehicle caught fire inside the Sasago Tunnel, about 50 miles outside Tokyo.

Rescuers were attempting to reach at least several vehicles believed buried in the rubble, including a truck whose driver was trapped inside and had called his company for help.

“I could hear voices of people calling for help, but the fire was just too strong,” said a woman interviewed by public broadcaster NHK after she escaped from the tunnel.

Local media reported that at least three bodies had been found inside the tunnel. However, Norio Furusawa, a spokesman for the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, said he could not confirm that information.

Executives for Central Japan Expressway said the company was investigating why the concrete panels had given way. A check of the tunnel’s roof in September and October found nothing amiss, they said.

A woman who escaped from a rental car that was trapped in the three-mile tunnel told authorities that she was unsure about the condition of five other people who had been in the vehicle with her. Two other vehicles were known to be buried in the rubble, suggesting at least seven people were trapped inside, according to a statement by the Fire and Disaster Management Agency.

It said two people were confirmed injured, one of them moderately.

The tunnel, which opened in 1977, is one of many in mountainous Japan. The location of the collapse, about a mile inside the tunnel, was complicating rescue efforts, reports said.

Police vehicles, fire trucks and ambulances were massed outside the tunnel’s entrance.

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