Five workers missing in flooded tunnel at Japan refinery

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 07, 2012 3:49 AM
Five workers missing in flooded tunnel at Japan refinery

TOKYO (Reuters) - Attempts to find five workers missing in an underwater tunnel at a refinery in western Japan were suspended on Tuesday due to poor visibility that posed a risk to rescue divers, police said.

Live TV showed divers in debris-filled water as emergency services waited at the top of the 30 meter wide entrance to the tunnel at Mizushima oil refinery in Okayama prefecture after the men, aged 38 to 61, went missing when it flooded with seawater.

One worker escaped from the tunnel, said a spokesman for operator JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corp, Japan's biggest refiner.

"Debris and oil were floating all over. There was no visibility at all," an Okayama police official said. "There was a risk of divers being involved in a secondary accident."

It was unclear when they would resume rescue operations, he said.

The tunnel, 35 meters deep and 820 meters long, is to connect Mizushima refinery-B to refinery-A and carry pipelines used to transport oil and semi-finished products. JX launched the project two years ago.

Operations and shipments from the 365,000 barrels per day refinery were not affected by the accident, the spokesman said.

The cause of the accident is not yet known, he said.

The refinery is located at a coastal industrial zone where petrochemical, steel and other factories also exist.

(Reporting by Yuko Inoue and; Editing by Michael Watson)