Pile-ups in Quebec injure at least 3; cause chemical spill

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MONTREAL – Poor driving conditions caused by a major storm resulted in several highway pile-ups in Quebec on Tuesday, including two crashes a few kilometres apart that left at least three people with serious injuries.

Quebec Provincial Police say one trucker suffered critical injuries in the first crash on Highway 20 near the community of Saint-Zotique in western Quebec. About seven trucks and their cargo reportedly caught fire in the accident.

Two other people were taken to hospital with serious injuries in a pile-up involving about a dozen vehicles a short distance away. In that accident, a tanker-truck spilled about 20,000 litres of a toxic substance called sodium hypochlorite.

Christian Blanchette, a regional environmental emergency co-ordinator, said the substance is similar to bleach, but very concentrated, and was contained in the highway median. He said the snow turned the material into a jelly, making it easy to recover.

Highway 20 in both directions in the area was expected to remain closed for several hours.

The slick driving conditions were also blamed for an earlier pile-up south of Montreal when at least 50 vehicles collided at about 3:30 p.m. ET on Highway 10 in the Magog area. Twelve people suffered minor injuries.

In another crash blamed on the weather, one man died south of Trois-Rivieres when his vehicle collided with a bridge pillar on Highway 55.

Police were also kept busy with a pile-up involving about five vehicles, including a provincial police cruiser, on Highway 10 near Eastman in the Eastern Townships. Police say some people suffered minor injuries.

On Tuesday evening, on Highway 40 westbound in the Assumption area northeast of Montreal, about 15 vehicles were involved in another pile-up blamed on poor driving conditions. There were no serious injuries reported in that crash.

The accidents were blamed on same storm that buried much of southern and eastern Ontario arrived in Quebec on Tuesday morning. Many areas of southern Quebec were expected to receive 30 to 40 centimetres of snow by Wednesday, with slightly lesser amounts in eastern Quebec.

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