Italy's prime minister has visited people injured when a truck carrying highly flammable gas crashed and exploded on a highway near Bologna.Giuseppe Conte said it was important to understand what happened to prevent future tragedies.
Prosecutors have opened an investigation of Monday's accident, which was triggered when the tanker truck hauling liquefied petroleum
gas, or LPG, rammed a truck stuck in a line of traffic.
The tanker caught fire and then exploded, shooting a fireball across the raised highway's eight lanes, causing part of it to collapse.
The tanker truck's driver was killed, but two highway patrolmen were credited with preventing more deaths by clearing the road of startled and curious motorists in the minutes between the collision and the big blast.
"The road was full of people outside of their vehicles that were making videos. There were two or three kilometres full of cars," patrolman Giacomo Chiriatti told Italian news channel Sky TG24.
"In six, seven minutes, eight, we managed to get all of the cars out of the way. After that, there was a great big explosion, as if from a film about Hiroshima and the atomic bomb."
Highway police said only the tanker driver died in the crash, revising earlier reports by the Italian carabinieri flyer
that the accident caused two fatalities. The driver was identified as 41-year-old Andrea Anziolin of the northern Italian city of Vicenza
.One person was killed in the explosion (Giorgio Benvenuti/ANSA via AP)
"Maybe it was a moment of distraction or a wave of sleepiness" that caused Anziolin to rear-end the truck, Bologna prosecutor Giuseppe Amato told Italy's RAI radio. "But it is too early to say with certainty."
The accident injured dozens of people. Some had burns, while others were cut by flying glass from the windows of nearby buildings that shattered during powerful secondary explosions.
The ones hurt by glass included 11 carabinieri from a barracks near the blast site who were preparing to respond to the accident.
Doctors said 120 people were treated, with just 18 in hospital for injuries that included severe burns. Ten patients were being treated in a plastic surgery ward, four in burn units.
"I am here today to demonstrate the closeness of the government to the people who are suffering, but also to understand why so that these things are not repeated," Mr Conte said.