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2012年12月 4日 (火)

トンネル崩落 老朽建造物の総点検が急務だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 4, 2012)
Aging tunnels, expressways need to be checked
トンネル崩落 老朽建造物の総点検が急務だ(12月3日付・読売社説)

A terrible accident occurred on a major expressway Sunday.

A large section of the ceiling collapsed inside the Sasago Tunnel of the Chuo Expressway in Yamanashi Prefecture, burying several vehicles and causing some of them to catch fire.

Eight-centimeter-thick concrete panels reportedly fell suddenly from the ceiling over a length of 110 meters. Several bodies were found in the buried vehicles. Some people escaped from the tunnel by themselves but suffered burns and other injuries.

"The ceiling collapsed like an avalanche," one witness said. The terrifying tunnel accident is simply chilling.

Some people possibly remain trapped under the rubble. We hope the police and firefighters will do everything they can to rescue any survivors, while taking care not to disturb any unstable slabs that could also come down.

The Chuo Expressway, like the Tomei Expressway, is a major artery linking the Tokyo metropolitan area with the Kansai region. The 4.7-kilometer Sasago Tunnel opened to traffic in 1977.


Tunnel passed checks

Central Nippon Expressway Co., the operator of the Chuo Expressway, said it conducted visual and other inspections inside the tunnel in September, but found nothing wrong with the panels that hang from the upper part of the tunnel to permit ventilation.

Had the structure deteriorated due to age? The police and the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry must thoroughly pinpoint the cause of the collapse. How maintenance and checkups should be conducted also needs to be examined.

More than 10 tunnels with similar structures to the Sasago Tunnel have been built across the country. These tunnels must be urgently inspected.

After 20 people were killed in the 1996 collapse of the Toyohama Tunnel in Hokkaido, all tunnels across Japan were checked. Couldn't lessons from this tragedy have been used more effectively?

During the period of high economic growth that began in the 1970s, government spending on public works projects for expanding social infrastructure increased sharply.


Structures crumbling

Expressways and other structures built during this period have aged considerably, and, experts say, some are becoming dangerous to use. One prime concern is that concrete in these structures is reaching the end of its fatigue life.

According to the infrastructure ministry, tunnels and elevated sections of the nation's expressways alone required repairs at about 555,000 locations in 2011. This is more than 10 times the 47,000 spots that needed repairs in 2005.

From the viewpoint of preparing for a major earthquake as part of disaster-prevention measures, aged structures must be quickly given comprehensive inspections.

With the government in dire fiscal straits, there are strong, persistent calls for cutting back on public works spending. Indeed, wasteful expenditures must be reined in.

But dangerous structures, if left as they are, threaten the safety of the public. Budgets should be allocated preferentially for repairing crumbling facilities.

This will be a major issue for the new government that comes to power following the Dec. 16 House of Representatives election.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 3, 2012)
(2012年12月3日01時30分  読売新聞)


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