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BRUSSELS (AP) - More than 130 vehicles were involved in three pileups at a highway in western Belgium in a dense morning fog Tuesday, leaving at least one dead and 76 injured.

Medical workers struggled to free injured passengers from the twisted metal of their vehicles for hours after the crash, troubled by continuing fog, which made emergency rescue by helicopter impossible.

The provincial governor, Carl Decaluwe, said one person had died, and that among the injured, five were in life-threatening condition while 11 sustained serious injuries.

The highway in Zonnebeke, linking the regional industrial hub of Kortrijk to nearby Ieper, was strewn with debris in three locations close to one another. The damp and cold conditions in early December often create fog, but drivers said it felt like a white wall of fog suddenly appeared, and immediately decreased virtually all visibility.

As the fog slowly lifted, the harrowing scene showed dozens of wrecked cars, some overturned and others forming a trail of destruction along a mid-road shoulder.

A truck slammed against the side of the road while one threw its cargo of animal feed over the road. Another spilled its manure, slumping next to several cars crumpled together like paper balls.

At first medical workers had trouble getting to the three separate crash sites because other smaller accidents were blocking access to the main road.

Some victims were left stuck in their cars for hours, with temperatures hovering close to freezing. Emergency crews handed out thermal blankets to people who were still caught in their cars.

It took six hours before an emergency declaration could be lifted.

In 1996, a similar pileup nearby had left 10 people dead.


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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