Lorry’s fireball brings gridlock to the roads as motorists sit in miles of traffic

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ROADS across the area were plunged into disarray after a lorry burst into flames on a major route.

Highways Agency crews started to replace the central barrier and repair damaged road surfaces in the early hours today in a bid to get the road ready for rush hour traffic.

Traffic on the eastbound A27 was at a standstill for hours. ''Picture: Allan Hutchings (142395-095)

Traffic on the eastbound A27 was at a standstill for hours. ''Picture: Allan Hutchings (142395-095)

The work on eastbound carriageway of the A27 flyover started around 8pm last night and officials said it was due to take 10 hours to complete.

It comes after a lorry carrying refrigeration units jackknifed on the A27 flyover at Eastern Road, sparking the fire and miles of tailbacks.

Police said the driver was lucky to escape uninjured.

Pictures were taken by Lewis Haines, Stephen Thompson and Ron Cardinal

The lorry ablaze on the A27. ''Picture: Lewis Haines

The lorry ablaze on the A27. ''Picture: Lewis Haines

Tarnia Siddle, 40, from Waterlooville, was about to drive past the lorry when it made a huge bang.

She said: ‘I was just coming up from the motorway and saw the lorry on fire – people were going past it.

‘I got right next to it to go past and it made a big explosion.

‘It was really loud, it was quite a frightening noise – an almighty bang. It’s awful.

The lorry fire on the A27. Picture: Stephen Thompson

The lorry fire on the A27. Picture: Stephen Thompson

‘One of the tyres came out and rolled in front of the cars next to me.

‘The whole underneath was alight. It was a bit scary being so close to it.’

Ms Siddle said she slammed on her brakes and moved from the outside lane when she heard the bang.

She then reversed back to get away from the fire. She spotted the driver out of the lorry on the side of the road.

lorry fire a27 pic 3''The lorry fire on the A27 flyover above Eastern Road in Portsmouth. Credit Ron Cardinal''From: CARDINAL RONALD <r.cardinal@ntlworld.com>

lorry fire a27 pic 3''The lorry fire on the A27 flyover above Eastern Road in Portsmouth. Credit Ron Cardinal''From: CARDINAL RONALD <r.cardinal@ntlworld.com>

‘The emergency services came and a fire engine came to try and put it out,’ she said.

‘They couldn’t really cope with it and soon another two came.

‘It didn’t seem to be going out very quickly.

‘Initially they only had one fire engine and it was a huge fire so that wasn’t going do anything.

‘It seemed to be quite challenging for them.’

Tailbacks stretched out seven miles from junction 12 of the M27 to junction nine, with delays on other arterial routes in the city.

The Highways Agency briefly opened one lane of the A27 at the flyover when it was safe to do so in a bid to relieve traffic congestion.

Forty firefighters tackled the blaze, which started at around 1.34pm yesterday.

The crews used five appliances and 200 litres of foam to put out the fire.

Drivers on the flyover were stuck for an hour before police officers helped free them from the stretch.

Police directed drivers to turn around and exit the road at the Farlington turn off.

Meanwhile, other drivers stranded in surrounding roads left their vehicles in a bid to stay cool while trapped in the heat.

Lisa Brookbank, 36, from North End, Portsmouth, and her three children Byron, 10, Watson, seven, and Leeuwin, five, were on their way to the Hayling Island funfair.

Joining them was Wendy Murray, 39, of Copnor, with her children Hayden, 11, and Harrison, eight.

She said: ‘We left to go to the funfair at 1.45pm and could see their was congestion but traffic was moving.

‘Then we just started to slow down and came to a stop.

‘We weren’t prepared with food or drink for the kids.’

Dennis Davies, 75, of Chatsworth Road, Cosham, was only going to Farlington to pick someone up.

He said: ‘I left my house at 2.20pm to pick someone up at 2.30pm and should only have been a five minute trip.

‘I don’t understand why they can’t open one lane for traffic to get by on.’

Dad-of-two Graeme Patfield, from Farlington, heard loud bangs.

He said: ‘We heard two or three loud bangs and then there were huge clouds of black smoke.

‘We could see them from the hill.

‘Then there were sirens and a helicopter up.

‘At first we thought it might be cannons going off for some reason.’

A spokeswoman from Portsmouth NHS Hospitals Trust, which runs Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, said staffing levels and patients were not affected by the traffic following the fire.

The ambulance service did not reply to a request for comment.

Roads were closed over fears of fire damage

POLICE were forced to shut roads close to the lorry blaze, such was the intensity of the fire.

The fire happened near to bridge supports and there was a concern they had been damaged in the blaze.

Officers shut the roundabout underneath the flyover until a structural engineer from the Highways Agency gave the all-clear.

The A27 and the Eastern Road roundabout was shut over safety fears as there were exploding tyres and sheets of metal flying around.

A police spokeswoman said: ‘As soon as the fire had been put out, and large sheets of metal from the lorry had been secured, we were able to open lane three of the main A27.’

While work is going on drivers are advised to leave the A27 for the Eastern Road Roundabout and then rejoin the eastbound carriageway after the flyover. There will be signs.

PC Rob Giles, of the roads policing unit, added: ‘These roads were closed for the safety of the public and were re-opened as soon as it was safe to do so.

‘Fortunately no one was injured as a result of this incident. We appreciate people’s patience and understanding while we were dealing with this incident.’

Union says fire brings its dispute into sharp focus

A UNION leader has called on fire minister and city MP Penny Mordaunt to restart talks with firefighters currently on strike.

Hampshire Fire Brigades Union chairman Nigel McCullen said the incident on the A27 flyover brought the ongoing pension age dispute into focus.

The fire on the A27 at 1.34pm happened during a two-hour strike from 12pm to 2pm.

It comes after Ms Mordaunt stopped talks after the FBU announced further strikes.

‘We don’t want to be in this position whereby something major is happening and we can’t attend,’ Mr McCullen said.

‘What we’re trying to do is get Penny back down talking to us so we can reach an agreement.

‘We don’t want to be out on strike missing calls.’

He said firefighters on the picket lines would have joined in the efforts to tackle the blaze.

‘We don’t want anybody hurt in this situations while we’re out on strike,’ he added.

The FBU is disputing government plans to raise the retirement age from 55 to 60 and increase pension contributions.

The eight days of strikes started on August 9 and end on August 16, running from 12pm to 2pm and 10.59pm to 11.59pm.

Ms Mordaunt, pictured, said: ‘Covering during strikes places huge pressure on those manning the fort.

‘These strikes are completely unnecessary as productive meetings had been held and further were in the diary.

‘I would urge the FBU to call off strikes which frustrate progress and are counterproductive.

‘Meantime I am continuing working towards a solution: firefighters want a swift resolution.’

Readers tweet, email and post photos of lorry fire

DOZENS of readers sent in photographs and videos of the fire and its aftermath.

Reader Tarnia Siddle was caught up in the jam and emailed in the dramatic picture that made the front page.

Others took to social networking websites Twitter and Facebook to share their views of the fire as plumes of smoke filled the sky.

Readers’ photographs and videos are always invited at The News – and we recently launched a new tool on portsmouth.co.uk to make it easier.

Log on to our website and scroll to the ‘Send us your stories’ section, where you can send in a story, photo or video.

Alternatively, take a look at our Facebook page at facebook.com/portsmouthnews or on Twitter @portsmouthnews.