Nine people were killed, at least 10 were hurt and others were missing on Tuesday as a tornado swept through a town in northern Japan, tearing apart homes used by construction workers, officials said.
The tornado ripped through the town of Saroma in the far north of the Japanese island of Hokkaido off the Sea of Okhotsk, laying waste to prefabricated homes used by workers at a nearby tunnel, officials said.
"Nine people were confirmed dead and at least 10 are injured. Some people went to the hospitals themselves so we don't know the exact number of injured," fire department official Yoshihiro Sasaki said.
He said that more people might still be missing from the tornado, which completely destroyed two prefabricated homes and damaged others.
Television footage showed the small homes torn to pieces and thrown onto nearby cars.
Rescue workers in blue uniforms sifted through the debris, crawling into the remains of prefabricated homes.
They rolled cars away from the disaster scene as they looked for survivors.
"Several buildings have crashed to the ground. But we're still collecting information on damages," a police spokesman said.
The prefabricated buildings were used as homes and offices by workers who were building a tunnel for a road through a mountain, said Yuko Hirouchi, a town official.
Some 100 workers were involved in the project led by industrial company Kajima, she said.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet set up a special office to coordinate the response to the disaster, an official said.
Tornados are relatively rare in the island nation, which is routinely hit hard by typhoons and earthquakes.