Page last updated at 16:59 GMT, Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Black ice causes chaos on roads in Devon

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Motorists described the road surface as being like "a sheet of ice"

Black ice caused by early morning rain falling on roads frozen to -7C in Devon has caused a catalogue of crashes and closed roads.

Some drivers were stuck for more than three hours in long tailbacks when the A38 was closed in both directions between Exeter and Plymouth.

The A361 North Devon Link Road was also closed from junction 27 to Bolham roundabout following several crashes.

Drivers have been warned to expect more ice on the roads overnight.

The eastbound carriageway of the A38 was closed at Buckfastleigh after an accident involving a large van.

'Go home' plea

One person was seriously hurt in the crash, but the injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.

Other collisions then resulted in both carriageways being closed.

The A380 between Newton Abbot and Exeter was also closed after a series of shunts caused by ice.

Chris Cranstone at the county council Highways Control Centre told BBC News: "The rain was falling on frozen roads so ice was forming on top of the salt."

Keyham bus damage
A bus ran into cars after sliding on ice at Keyham in Plymouth

The Highways Agency is advising drivers to take extra care on journeys overnight in the South West as a band of rain is forecast, followed by freezing temperatures.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council's cabinet member for highways, called on employers to let staff go home early.

He said: "As it is the season of goodwill employers should also consider allowing their staff to arrive later tomorrow morning after conditions start to improve."

In Newton Abbot, a tanker driver narrowly avoided crashing into a wall on a road, described by residents as "more like an ice rink", while people in Kingsbridge resorted to crawling on their hands and knees to avoid falling over.

A38 near Buckfast
Hundreds of cars were trapped on the A38 when it was closed

In Plymouth, a bus slid down an icy road in the Keyham area of the city and hit 12 parked cars.

Torquay and Totnes have suffered several areas of gridlock because of slow-moving traffic and vehicles being abandoned.

In neighbouring Cornwall, two people died and 47 were injured when a coach crashed on sheet ice near Hayle.

Gritting lorries have been working continuously in Devon, but there are not enough supplies to treat all minor routes.

Doctors at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital at Wonford, near Exeter, said 20% of the people they had treated in accident and emergency over the past few days have had broken bones.

Non-emergency vehicles are being used to take the strain of extra calls to the ambulance service in Devon and Cornwall.



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