Traffic was backed up for miles on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway yesterday morning after a tempo collided with a gas tanker close to the Khandala exit ramp, sparking fears of a catastrophe.
The collision damaged a valve on the tanker, reportedly carrying Liquefied Petroleum Gas, and the contents began to escape from the holding tank. In order to avoid a potential fireball in the area, Highway Patrol Police cordoned off the spot, stopped vehicular movement on both sides of the highway and advised residents of the vicinity to refrain fr0m cooking or lighting stoves.
Though the police gradually allowed traffic to move forward a few hours later, the build up of vehicles on both sides resulted in a slow moving caravan. It took around four hours for vehicles to cover the four-kilometre stretch near the Khandala exit.
The accident took place at 11.50 am when the tempo, which was going toward Pune, reportedly skidded on the wet road, jumped the road divider and hit a gas tanker heading to Mumbai.
“I was driving towards Mumbai when the tempo on other side jumped into our lane and hit the tanker. I managed to control the vehicle and avoided a major accident. However, the tanker started leaking as the valve was damaged in the accident. The police arrived at the spot in no time and stopped traffic as the gas leak was heavy,” said the driver of the gas tanker.
The driver of the tempo on the other hand, fled from the spot soon after the collision.
Besides asking locals to switch off electrical appliances and gas burners to avoid any untoward incident, the MSEDCL office was informed to cut off electricity to the area.
“We cut off the electric supply and cordoned off the area. We asked residents to leave the area for sometime and called the concerned gas company officials to fix the leakage. The problem was resolved by 4 pm, after which we allowed traffic to move slowly in a step-wise manner,” said Vishnu Pawar, police inspector of Lonavala police station.
Residents of Khandala and surrounding villages took a little longer to return to normalcy. “As soon as we came to know about the accident, we left our area and returned only after the intensity of the gas smell reduced. We have not eaten anything since we were told not to do anything that involved fire or electricity,” said Atmaram Patil, a resident of the area close to the accident spot.
After ensuring the danger had passed, the police allowed traffic to resume from Pune to Mumbai at around 3 pm. However, traffic from Mumbai to Pune was allowed to proceed only after 5 pm.
“I left Mumbai for Pune at around 11 am and reached Khopoli at 1.30 pm. After that, it took us over four hours to cover four kilometres. Authorities should have made announcement about the accidents so we would not have taken this route,” said Amit Desai, a commuter, who was stuck in the jam.
Meanwhile, a case of rash and negligent driving has been registered against the tempo driver.