LONDON — A huge crash involving 34 vehicles on a highway in southwestern England killed at least seven people and injured 51, British police said Saturday.
The crash on Friday night involved explosions, and cars and tractor trailers burning "literally to the ground," Assistant Chief Constable Anthony Bangham told reporters. Police expect the death toll to rise and they fear they may find more bodies in the wreckage, Bangham said.
Video footage shown on British news channels showed large balls of fire consuming trucks, and billowing smoke at the scene.
It was not immediately clear what caused the collision on the M5 highway, but police said foggy conditions and wet road surfaces were partly to blame. Road accidents of this scale are rare in Britain, and rescuers have described the pile-up as one of the worst in living memory.
The affected section of the busy highway has been closed in both directions as police remove all vehicles for forensic examination. The highway will not be reopened until Sunday at the earliest, police said.
Paul Slaven, a fire official from the region, told the BBC earlier that the pile-up Friday evening on the M5 highway involved 20 cars and six trucks. He said the incident was the "worst road traffic collision anyone can remember" in the area.
Police said a section of the M5 highway would remain closed for at least 24 hours, and released a hotline number for people concerned about friends or family who may have been involved in the accident.
Tom Hamill, of Wells, who witnessed the accident, told BBC: "I'd slowed right down and had veered into the central reservation and I think that saved our lives — the fog lifted and I saw utter carnage.
"The thing that made me realize how bad it was, was you could hear the thud of cars hitting into lorries: One car overtook us going at about 60 or 70 miles an hour and just crashed straight into a lorry.
"I could hear people screaming and shouting. One woman who was carrying a baby and child was desperate — I helped the child over the central reservation and we all just tried to get as far away from the fire as possible."