Havoc on Canadian highway as blizzard causes pile-up

At least 100 people were injured in a multi-vehicle pile-up on an icy, snow-covered highway in the western Canadian province of Alberta yesterday, local health officials said.

Buses, big-rig trucks, all-terrain vehicles, tow trucks and scores of cars got caught up in the accident just south of Edmonton.

Fresh snow on the road tricked drivers into believing there was reasonable traction. A heavy snowfall that created blinding white-out conditions made driving even more dangerous.

Several vehicles in the giant accident were pushed into the ditches flanking the road, officials said.

Alberta Health Services initially reported 300 people had been injured, but later lowered that figure to 100 with minor to moderate injuries, and one critically injured. Twenty-two people required hospitalisation. Around 80 were treated on the scene and released.

The blizzard caused about 130 other vehicle accidents across Alberta, police said. Three people were killed in one of the accidents.

News pictures showed an 18-wheeler flipped on its side with a smaller, damaged truck leaning against it, and next to it a van with a hood crushed like an accordion.

The road was closed for two hours in both directions as officials scrambled to send buses to evacuate the victims. Those injured were treated in dozens of area hospitals.

One driver, Alison Veldkamp, spent four and a half hours inside the car with her husband trapped in the pile-up.

"We shuttle on the highway quite often ... but have never seen anything like this," she said. "It was definitely scary."

The cause of the accident was not known but Veldkamp said it might have been a car that braked suddenly.


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