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Thursday, 28 March, 2002, 19:09 GMT
Motorway re-opens after crash chaos
M40 traffic
The traffic jam reached 15 miles in length
The M40 in Oxfordshire is being opened again to traffic after the biggest mutiple accident on the road for 10 years.

Police are gradually re-opening the motorway from junction eight to junction six after a 100-vehicle pile-up in which two people died.

The M5 in Somerset has also been re-opened after a crash there left two dead and third critically injured.

Police say tens of thousands of drivers were stuck in traffic jams on both motorways and there are still long queues.

Trouble spots
Oxfordshire, London-bound M40
Cambridgeshire, A14 eastbound
Somerset, M5 southbound
Essex M11, Stanstead airport direction
Tamar rail bridge into Cornwall

Thick fog is believed to have been a major factor in a series of "knock-on" crashes on the London-bound side of the M40 carriageway at Lewknor on Thursday morning.

Several people have been airlifted to hospitals in the area.

The northbound carriageway reopened during the afternoon but police estimate the southbound carriageway will be closed until teatime.

A Thames Valley Police spokeswoman said: "All drivers are advised to avoid the area completely and seek alternative routes."

The crash on the M5 happened between junctions 22 and 21 when an articulated lorry travelling southbound collided with a camper van parked on the hard shoulder.

The lorry veered across the carriageway and crashed through the central reservation, police said.

It collided with two cars and a lorry travelling on the northbound carriageway and careered down an embankment, taking one of the cars with it.

Ten-mile tailback

The lorry then came to rest on top of the car, trapping the driver inside.

A spokesman for Somerset Fire Service said the trapped motorist had been pronounced dead at the scene.

The driver of the other car was freed by firefighters, but died later in hospital.

Police said another person had sustained life-threatening injuries and several others had been injured in the crash which happened at just before 1000 GMT near Sedgemoor Services.

The motorway was closed in both directions between junction 22, the turning for Burnham-on-Sea, and junction 21 at Weston-super-Mare.

By mid-afternoon two lanes of the southbound carriageway had been reopened but the northbound carriageway remained closed.

The RAC said the accident had caused traffic mayhem ahead of the Easter Bank holiday weekend, with tailbacks on the M5 of up to 10 miles either side of the accident.

Police said that alternative routes are also extremely busy, with Bristol completely gridlocked by motorists trying to avoid the motorway.

The BBC's Emma Simpson
"Within minutes more than 100 vehicles were involved"
See also:

28 Mar 02 | England
My M40 nightmare to work
28 Mar 02 | England
Airport staff's Easter strike
28 Mar 02 | England
Easter sun attracts the crowds
22 Mar 02 | England
New strike action at airport
11 Mar 02 | England
Trains stopped in overtime row
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