A38 is closed as up to 10,000 litres of petrol pours onto road near Plymouth
A fuel tanker being towed by a rescue truck broke free from the vehicle, ran headlong down a hill and jacknifed spilling at least 7,000 litres of petrol onto the A38.
600metres of the road will have to be resurfaced before it can reopen to traffic.
Police have revealed the truck, which is still blocking the major route in South East Cornwall near Plymouth, was fully laden with 38,000 litres of unleaded petrol at the time of the crash.
Police say the accident happened after an attempt to rescue a broken down tanker went badly wrong - with the truck rolling off a rescue vehicle and splitting at least one fuel cell.
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Police were called to reports of a broken down fuel tanker on the A38 at Menheniot at 4.30pm yesterday. It appears that the vehicle’s engine had blown.
While being towed away at around 6.55pm the tanker came away from the tow truck at the top of a steep dual carriageway between Tideford and Landrake.
The vehicle rolled down the hill, jackknifed and turned on its side, rupturing its skin and spilling unleaded fuel down the highway.
It is unknown how much fuel has been split but the tanker was fully laden with 38,000 litres. At least one fuel cell containing 7,000 litres was ruptured.
A major incident was declared and police, fire, highways and the Environment Agency attended the scene. The A38 was closed in both directions and a cordon put in place.
Only two houses were nearby but outside of the cordon so there was no need to evacuate any properties.
No injuries were reported as a result of the incident.
Fuel specialists were called in overnight to pump the remaining fuel from the tanker. The vehicle is being extracted from the scene by crane this morning.
The top layer of tarmac will need to be removed by Highways to make the road safe for drivers. It is likely that the A38 will be closed until at least 4pm today.
Diversions are in place via Liskeard to Callington, with some cordons still being manned by police.
All services are working hard at the scene to enable the road to be opened as soon as it is safe to do so.
There are diversions where the road is shut at Tideford and Carkeel - along the A388 and A390.
Traffic is being sent through Callington.
Three fire crews from Saltash, which includes an Enviromental Support Vehicle and a Rescue Tender from Bodmin, were on scene.
By midnight fire, police and Highways Agency staff were still at the scene assessing the damage to the road surface and overseeing the recovery of the vehicle.
Stocks of fire fighting foam and specialist equipment were sent to the scene by Devon Fire and Rescue Service as a precautionary measure.
At 4am specialist crews were decanting fuel from the overturned tanker and just before 7am they were ventilating fumes.
The tanker has to be fully ventilated before it is safe to move.
There are fears fuel may have got into the nearby river. An Environment Agency spokesman said pollution inspections would be carried out this morning.
Booms have been deployed to contain any fuel on the River Tidy - a salmon spawning ground.
Inspections so far show little pollution.
The A38 remains closed in both directions (east & west) with diversions along the A388 and A390.