Truck explosion on Auckland's Southern Motorway sparks evacuations, New Zealand
At least 30 people were evacuated from homes near Auckland’s Southern Motorway, after a truck carrying aerosol paint exploded into flames in the early hours of 7 March 2023. The fire happened on the northbound lane of the Southern Motorway, just north of the Papakura on-ramp. Police said the truck was carrying “highly flammable gas in canisters and these have exploded over all of the northbound lanes and into the bush on the side of the road”. Fire and Emergency NZ said between 20 and 30 people were evacuated from houses on Harbourside Drive, Karaka, adjacent to the motorway.
Those people evacuated were given the all clear to begin return home just before 7am.
Up to 12 fire crews were at the scene at the height of the blaze. Fire and Emergency northern shift manager Carren Larking said six fire engines remained at the scene. The fire was contained by 6am but the motorway remained closed northbound between Papakura and Takanini until mid-morning and people warned to avoid the area.
The motorway from Papakura to Takanini was closed, causing gridlock in surrounding streets.
Mainfreight’s managing director Don Braid said the Chemcouriers truck was carrying cans of aerosol paint from Rotorua to Auckland. The driver escaped unharmed and the cause of the explosion was under investigation.
Papakura resident Steven Shortt said he was woken by several explosions just before 3am, after the truck caught fire in a northbound lane, just north of the Papakura on-ramp and near his house. “Some of the explosions were massive. Flying fire projectiles were getting thrown into our front lawn. Cars are covered in ash across the whole front. There were burning embers across our front lawn. It was pretty crazy, man. “I’ve never in my life seen anything like that before. The whole upstairs of the house is hot against the windows. The explosions you could feel from across the road, the heat and the impact. It was like a war scene.”
Shortt said the rear carriage of the truck was destroyed in about 10 minutes and the rest of the truck about 20 minutes later, amid repeated explosions. “With chemicals, we evacuated. We grabbed the dogs and animals, went across the road and watched the explosions and fires from a safer distance. Some of those explosions were well above power lines, 50-odd metres [high].”
Mainfreight’s managing director Don Braid said the driver is shaken up but is fine. ”He attempted to disconnect the trailer but the trailer was alight by the time he managed to try and disconnect and had to move away from the vehicle as quickly as he could,” said Braid. ”He’s fine and a little bit shaken up.”
Braid said the truck fire is under an internal investigation. ”We think either mechanical or electrical [cause] but we have to get that investigation completed before we can confirm one or another.”
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