Two people are dead after a serious crash at a highway junction near Karapiro in the central North Island.

A third person was taken to Waikato Hospital with serious injuries.

Police briefly reopened the highway to allow a backlog of vehicles pass the crash around midday.

However, the road was expected to be closed at the intersection of State Highways 1 and 29 for several hours while a scene examination and vehicle recovery takes place.

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A traveller driving past the crash scene described the crash's deadly carnage.

"The cars were destroyed. So sad!" posted Keegan Kirk on Facebook.

Motorists are being warned to expect delays.

Police asked people to be patient as traffic banks up in the area and follow the directions of emergency services.