Japan orders tunnel checks

TOKYO - Japanese officials ordered the immediate inspection of tunnels across the country Monday after nine people were killed when concrete ceiling slabs fell from the roof of a highway tunnel onto moving vehicles below.

Those killed in Sunday's accident were traveling in three vehicles in the three-mile Sasago Tunnel about 50 miles west of Tokyo.

The Transport Ministry ordered that inspections be carried out immediately on 49 other tunnels around the country that are either on highways or roads managed by the central government and of similar construction.

Police and the highway operator Central Japan Expressway Co. were investigating why the concrete slabs in the Sasago Tunnel collapsed. An inspection of the tunnel's roof in September found nothing amiss, according to Satoshi Noguchi, a company official. - AP

Belfast mob and police clash

DUBLIN - A Protestant mob stormed into the grounds of Belfast City Hall and clashed with police Monday night after the council voted to remove the British flag from the building for most of the year.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland said five of its officers and two security guards were injured during the hour-long melee outside city hall. The violence spilled into predominantly Protestant east Belfast, where passing Protestant crowds threw bricks and bottles at a Catholic church and hijacked a bus.

Also injured was an Associated Press photographer, who described being clubbed by at least one policeman as he found himself trapped between baton-swinging officers and the Protestant crowd. He sustained a head wound and a broken right pointer finger.

More than 1,000 Protestants had rallied outside as council members voted 29-21 to remove the Union Jack from the dome for all but 17 designated days each year. The British flag has flown continuously there for more than a century.

Many parts of Belfast remain divided into British and Irish districts demarcated by high walls and rival displays of flags. - AP

S. Korea plans around rocket

SEOUL, South Korea - South Korea said Monday that it plans to reroute passenger flights over the Yellow Sea to avoid possible collisions with debris from a long-range rocket that North Korea plans to launch this month.

The Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs said it made the decision after learning that North Korea had informed China and Singapore of the flight path and other details of the launch.

North Korea told those nations the rocket would be launched in the morning and its debris would fall into the Yellow Sea and in waters east of the Philippines.

The International Maritime Organization said Monday that North Korea had informed it that it planned to launch a satellite between Dec. 10 and 22 and between 7 a.m and noon. The North provided a list of dangerous coordinates where debris could fall. - AP