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Four die in Japan tunnel blast

28 May 2012

Four workers were confirmed dead on May 27 after a blast two days previously inside a 2.8-kilometre highway tunnel being built in Minami Uonuma, about 180 kilometres northwest of Tokyo, Yomiuri said, citing local police and fire department sources. They were found about 1,300 metres from the entrance of the tunnel.

The four were taken to local hospitals but were all confirmed dead. Niigata prefectural police say they will conduct autopsies on the bodies.

On the same day, police conducted searches at three branch offices of Sato Kogyo Co., a Tokyo-based civil engineering firm in charge of the construction work. Police plan to investigate the company on suspicion of professional negligence resulting in injuries, to determine whether its safety measures were adequate.

The city's fire headquarters said the rescuers found the four workers earlier but had to delay retrieving their bodies for two days because of a high concentration of gas in the tunnel.

Rescuers who carried gas sniffers detected four different types of gas, the official said - oxygen, hydrogen sulphide, an unidentified combustible gas, and carbon monoxide.

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