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Second blast at Japan tunnel no success

wide shot of tunnel

Trapped travelers feared dead

February 12, 1996
Web posted at: 10:45 a.m. EST (1545 GMT)

FURUBIRA, Japan (CNN) -- A second attempt to dislodge a 50,000-ton boulder from a crushed tunnel on Japan's Hokkaido Island failed Monday, and may have made matters worse

Officials doubt that any of the 20 people trapped for three days in the debris are alive.

Rescuers detonated 550 pounds (250 kilograms) of dynamite to try to move a rock (385K QuickTime movie) the size of a 20-story building that tumbled Saturday from the side of a mountain and landed on the tunnel. But, the rock barely budged.

In the tunnel is a bus that was carrying 19 people and a car with one motorist.

bus

The controlled blast managed to move only a small part of the bottom part of the rock, making the top half more unstable, officials said. They said the rescue effort now could take a week.

A similar explosion Sunday also was unproductive. Hokkaido authorities may do another blast on Tuesday. The boulder is about 180 feet (60 meters) high and 120 feet (40 meters) wide.

Relatives of victims are keeping vigil near the accident site, despite freezing temperatures, hoping that loved ones survived. More than half of the people on the bus are from the nearby village of Furubira. But rescuers have detected no signs of life and suspect many victims died immediately when the rock fell.

inside the tunnel

The Toyohama Tunnel, which is more than one-half mile (1,086 meters) long, is about 30 miles (50 kilometers) northwest of Hokkaido's capital city of Sapporo. The highway runs along the coast of the Sea of Japan between the towns of Yoichi and Furubira.

Geology experts say landslides are a constant hazard on Hokkaido, an island regularly shaken by earthquakes and blanketed by snow for up to six months each year.

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