Thousands of commuters were inconvenienced and hundreds stranded after the Mumbai-Pune expressway was closed to traffic for at least seven hours on Friday following a major gas leak, after a gas tanker overturned on the stretch, cutting off Mumbai from the rest of western Maharashtra.
Around 8 or 9 am, a gas tanker of the Bharat Gas overturned one km away from Khandala, a corridor used by vehicles from both directions, and gas began to leak from the vehicle. The police cordoned off the area and blocked traffic on both sides of the expressway.
Making matters worse for commuters, the old Mumbai-Pune highway (NH 4) was also closed as a precautionary measure.
While many commuters were not allowed into the expressway, hundreds of vehicles were left stranded there for the entire day, with no access to food or water.
There were serpentine queues of vehicles, 15 to 20 km long, on both sides of the expressway. The police issued advisories asking people not to use the expressway of the National Highway (NH) 4, to avoid inconvenience to them.
The tanker was on its way to Shikrapur in Pune district and had filled up gas a short while ago at Uran. It was filled with Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG), which is highly flammable.
A team of experts from the Uran gas project plugged the leak by around 1 pm, using a wooden block, m-seal and plaster of paris.
The Mumbai-bound section of the expressway was then opened to traffic by around 2 pm, while the other section was opened an hour later. But the traffic flow was back to normal only by the evening.
Just an hour before the leak, two people were killed and five others injured in an accident involving a truck and a tanker.
Incidentally, the tanker, which was carrying tar, was being used by the IRB (Ideal Road Builders), which is tasked with maintenance of the expressway.
This is the second time in the last few months that traffic on the expressway was disrupted owing to a gas leak.
In September last year, villages near Lonawala had to be evacuated after an HPCL gas tanker collided with another vehicle.