Several people were killed and dozens more injured after a mass pileup on a German autobahn involving up to 80 vehicles Friday. The accident, which took place on the A19 highway near Rostock in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, was apparently caused by a sandstorm.
Police reported Friday night that at least eight people died. Around 97 were believed to have been injured, with scores requiring hospital treatment. According to medical facilities in Rostock, Güstrow and Bad Doberan, victims had mostly suffered broken bones, bruises, sprains and head injuries.
Massive Pile of Rubble
The pileup occurred at around 12.30pm local time at Kavelstorf, just south of Rostock, according to a police spokesman. In total, 17 cars and three trucks -- including a tanker carrying hazardous goods which apparently spilt some of its load -- caught fire on the Rostock-bound carriageway. In the opposite direction, towards Berlin, 23 cars were involved in the accident. The roadway at the scene resembled a massive pile of rubble. Several people were trapped in their cars, a police spokesman said.
The autobahn was closed in both directions as police, paramedics and firefighters helped the victims. The wreckage was reportedly cleared during the afternoon.
According to a police spokesman in Rostock, the cause of the accident was probably sand which had been blown by strong winds onto the four-lane highway from adjacent fields, blinding drivers. Near the site of the accident, the autobahn passes along a freshly-ploughed field. Even after the pileup, visibility was at times below 50 meters (160 feet).
The strong winds had been blowing dry soil across fields in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania on Friday, with prolonged dry conditions in recent weeks affecting agriculture in the region. In the coming days, low pressure front "Joachim" will bring stormy weather to the north and east of the country, the German Weather Service said.