At least three dead as pile-ups cause morning traffic havoc on roads into Helsinki
Icy conditions take drivers unawares
At least three people have been killed and dozens injured in several substantial pile-ups on highways leading into the capital this morning. The accidents all took place shortly before 8 a.m. in rush-hour conditions, and rescue work has generated long tailbacks on a number of main arteries into the city.
Conditions became suddenly unmanageable after days of sunny cold weather came to an end in an early morning blizzard of very fine snow and ice crystals that left roads slick and dangerous.
According to an estimate from Vantaa mobile police units, the accidents have involved at least 400 vehicles.
The carnage has been so bad that cars are crushed together and even piled on top of one another, by mid-morning rescue workers had not been able to get at the vehicles underneath.
Eight people with serious injuries were taken to hospital in Helsinki, a further five to Hyvinkää, and some to Porvoo. Dozens more were treated for minor injuries at local health centres.
Police have issued warnings to motorists to exercise the greatest caution. Drivers heading into Helsinki have been urged to avoid Highways 3, 4 and 7 - the Hämeenlinna, Lahti, and Porvoo motorways.
The worst shunt took place on Lahdenväylä, the urban motorway leading into the city from the north, between the junctions to Kerava and to Kerava South. Initial reports suggest a tanker truck and a bus hit a stationary line of cars. At least one person died and there were a large number of injuries. More than fifty vehicles were thought to be involved.
Police have cut off all traffic on the lanes into Helsinki in order to carry out rescue and clearance work.
On Porvoonväylä, the motorway leading into the city from the east, at least two deaths have been reported from a pile-up near to the intersection with the Outer Ring Road (Kehä III). Around a dozen vehicles were involved.
Further pile-ups were reported from Hämeenlinnantie (the motorway heading north-west towards Hämeenlinna and Tampere) at the Klaukkala intersection, and also on the Tuusula motorway.
In both cases, traffic heading into the city is either at a standstill or severely hampered. The Hämeenlinnantie accident is believed to involve dozens of cars. The Tuusula motorway, which links the city with the international airport, was re-opened to traffic only after 11 a.m., some three hours after the accidents took place. The Hämeenlinna road was re-opened shortly after noon.
Road conditions across Southern Finland and towards the south-west are extremely hazardous today.
In addition to the major pile-ups, there have been reports of countless cases of people driving off the road and of smaller fender-bender collisions.
Drivers have recently been lulled into a false sense of security by a sequence of sunny dry days and roads that have been completely clear of ice and snow.
The springlike weather, albeit extremely cold (see other article) was suddenly replaced by a fall of very fine snow and ice crystals that affected visibility and made roads treacherously slick in an instant.
As so often happens much earlier in the winter, when the first sharp frost comes, drivers were completely unprepared for the conditions. This time, not even the presence of studded winter-tyres seems to have helped.
It is likely that this story will develop further during the day and we shall probably return to it tomorrow.
FINNRA Traffic Pages