A tanker carrying edible oil spilled most of its cargo on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway on Saturday, sparking huge traffic jams that lasted 10 hours. It took the highway traffic police over three hours just to cover the spilled oil with sand.
The spill took place on the Mumbai-bound lane of the expressway, between Lonavala and Khandala, at 6.30am. The tanker was transporting edible oil that was to be filtered in Mumbai. The driver told highway traffic officials that he was forced to brake hard after a vehicle overtook his tanker on a curved stretch, causing the oil to spill.
“Almost 75% of the oil in the tanker spilled on the road and spread to both the Pune-bound and Mumbai-bound lanes. We reached the spot soon after the incident,” said Mohan Chalke, assistant inspector, Khandala traffic police. No one was injured in the accident.
Traffic police officials reached the spot with the fire brigade at 7.10 am and teams began to cover the oil with sand. This continued until 9.30 am, when one lane towards Pune was reopened to traffic. This, however, only made matters worse.
“The jam worsened as many heavy-vehicle drivers tried to overtake each other to get out of the jam,” said a highway traffic police constable.
Traffic police officials said the situation improved by 4pm. But even at 5pm, traffic on the stretch was moving at a crawl, according to highway traffic control. Following the incident, the driver of the tanker was handed over to the Lonavla city police, who recorded the accident in a diary.
Inspector IS Patil of the Lonavla city police said, “We have brought in the tanker driver for questioning. The spot where the accident occurred is on a curve. We are looking into how the accident took place and whether another vehicle was involved. After an investigation, we will decide the course of action.”
The Mumbai-Pune Expresses sees heavy traffic on weekends as it serves as a link to popular weekend destinations such as Lonavala and Khandala.