Major British motorway crash injures up to 40, some killed

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Up to 40 people were injured and some were killed after a massive pile-up on a British motorway, emergency services said on Saturday.

Television pictures showed a line of cars and lorries ablaze following the crash at around 2030 GMT Friday which involved 26 vehicles on the M5 motorway near Taunton, southwest England.

Blazing lorries had tipped onto their side and people could be seen trying to prise open the doors of cars to help trapped passengers escape after the crash in foggy and wet conditions.

Eyewitnesses said they heard explosions and saw debris and casualties strewn across the road.

Dozens of firefighters battled to free people who were trapped in the wreckage of their vehicles on the northbound carriageway, and police said a long stretch of the motorway was closed and would not reopen for 24 hours.

Avon and Somerset Police said that "some (people) have tragically lost their lives" but did not give a figure.

"There may be up to 40 casualties that have been taken to hospital, it's a serious incident," Paul Slaven, from Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, told BBC television.

"At least 10 of the people have unfortunately got extremely serious injuries."

Motorist Paul O'Connor described the scene as "horrific."

"It was quite horrific and I have never seen anything like that -- I could see people lying on the side of the road," he told Sky News television. "It was quite disturbing really."

Jason Sharp, who witnessed the accident from a nearby rugby club, told the BBC that he heard a number of explosions.

"Petrol tanks I believe were going up -- black smoke going up.

"There were a number of heavy vehicles that were on fire in the accident."

He said there was heavy fog and the roads were wet at the time of the crash.

Jon Adair said on Twitter: "Worst traffic accident I've ever seen on the M5 nr Taunton. Burning vehicles & casualties/debris strewn across road."

© 2011 AFP

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