27-vehicle pileup blocks highway near Quebec City

Quebec provincial police say it will be several hours before a stretch of Highway 40 west of Quebec City will reopen, following a major pileup involving 27 vehicles this morning.

At least 20 people were hurt in the chain-reaction crash, including one elderly woman whose injuries police describe as serious.

The westbound lanes of Highway 40 remain closed in the area and traffic is being diverted onto Highway 138 along the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Road conditions remain slippery, and a winter storm warning was still in effect as darkness fell.

The accident happened at kilometre 254 of the highway near Saint-Marc-des-Carrières, 70 kilometres west of Quebec City.

Cars and heavy trucks and metal debris were strewn in the ditches on both sides of the highway for several hundred metres.

CBC reporter Ainslie MacLellan spoke to one truck driver, who said he had been driving at about 80 km/h when vehicles directly ahead of his truck began spinning out of control.

He said he swerved into a ditch to avoid the cars in front of him and ended up with the cab of his truck pointing in the opposite direction to the one in which he'd been travelling.

Several of the trucks were carrying heavy loads.

"We know that there [are] no dangerous substances carried by those vehicles," said Quebec provincial police spokeswoman Ann Mathieu. "We'll have to unload them … and eventually, they'll all be towed."

Officials are pointing to winter weather and poor road conditions as the likely cause of the pileup.

"The visibility was good but the surface might have been a little frozen," Mario St-Pierre of Transport Quebec said.

Police say it's unclear how long it will take to clean up the damage and reopen the highway.

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