M56 back open this morning following overturned tanker and chemical spill
Cheshire Police reopened the M56 early this morning following a day of chaos caused by an overturned tanker.
The motorway was closed in both directions between J11 Runcorn, Warrington and J14 Ellesmere Port westbound and between J14 and J12 Runcorn eastbound yesterday due to the overturned tanker and chemical spill.
The Highways agency were first notified of the incident at around 3.45pm on Tuesday 20th October.
The first emergency service units, police fire and ambulance, arrived on scene at 4pm, on discovering hazardous chemicals were leaking from the tanker police quickly implemented a full closure of the M56 in both directions.
Cheshire Fire and Rescue service advised other emergency services in attendance that the tanker would require a cordon to be established around the scene due to the nature of the chemical spilling out from the toppled HGV, the tanker could not be approached until fire crews wearing protective safety equipment were on scene.
The chemical was confirmed as ethanol triazine, which can cause irritation to the respiratory system if inhaled and severe irritation if it comes in to contact with skin, a 1.8 km exclusion zone was declared around the scene and a cordon was set up.
Within the immediate area of the overturned tanker, police officers evacuated a number of drivers from their vehicles, they were escorted to nearby services where Cheshire West and Chester Council had located their Emergency Shelter provision.
Keep doors and windows shut
Residents in the area nearby Helsby, Hapsford, Frodsham and Elton were advised to keep doors and windows shut, and trains services between Liverpool and Runcorn were stopped.
Thankfully the driver of the tanker was not injured, he was taken to hospital though for precautionary checks.
Specialist crews arrived on scene at 5pm to undertake the removal of the central reservation barrier, by 6pm a gap had been created, traffic both on the east and westbound carriageways began to be turned around
It soon became apparent to emergency services the incident was going to be protracted, due to the nature of the chemical spill and the specialist clean-up that it would require.
Diversion routes were set up from the motorway however due to a low bridge many of the HGV’s travelling along the M56 had no other option than to sit out the closure.
In addition Highways England traffic officers were also turning trapped traffic around from the back of the queue so they could exit at the nearest junction behind them.
Whilst the tanker incident was ongoing, a second incident was unfolding nearby.
At 8.31pm Fire crews were called to a serious collision on the westbound carriageway between J14 and J15.
The incident involved a collision between a HGV car transporter and car and sadly the occupants of the car sustained serious injuries in the collision.
Fire crews used cutting equipment to free the casualty who was passed to the care of the ambulance service.
Due to the severity of the injuries sustained by one of the occupants in the car Cheshire Police determined a full collision investigation would be required, a full closure of the westbound carriageway of the M56 was implemented resulting in an 8 mile stretch of the M56 westbound being closed from J11 to J15.
The westbound carriageway was cleared from junction 15 and reopened at 2.30am.
Meanwhile, at 11.20pm Cheshire Fire & Rescue were happy the tanker could be approached and drained, that work was completed by 1.00am, the tanker was removed from the scene around two hours later, the road surface luckily hadn’t been damned in the incident, debris to sweep up off of the road and central reservation barriers reinstalled.
Owners of vehicles within the cordon who were moved to the nearby service area were escorted back to their vehicles by Highways officers once the police cordonhad been lifted, over 200 vehicles had to be abandoned with many of the owners finding accommodation whilst they were away from their vehicles.
Heavy rain overnight helped clean up the impact of the chemical spill speeding up the reopening of the motorway at 4.30am
There were eight casualties as a result of the chemical spill incident, five were treated by North West Ambulance Service at Hapsford Services and three were taken to the Countess of Chester Hospital, they have all since been released.
A second incident resulted in a 24-year old man, a 26-year-old man and a 1-year-old boy being taken to hospital; they are described as being in a stable condition.
Additional info via the Highways Agency, Cheshire Police nd Cheshire Fire and Rescue.