A 10-kilometre stretch of Highway 15 on Montreal’s South Shore will likely remain closed until Thursday morning, after a pileup involving at least 100 cars and a dozen trucks early Wednesday afternoon.
Highway 15 has been closed in both directions near kilometre 46 in the suburban city of La Prairie since the collisions occurred in the southbound lane at about 12:30 p.m.
Nine people were seriously injured, while another 60 suffered minor injuries.
Sûreté du Québec spokesperson Sgt. Claude Denis said those not hurt were moved to safety by chartered buses.
Quebec’s Transport Minister François Bonnardel said the chain reaction of collisions was likely caused by a sudden whiteout, as blowing snow severely limited visibility in the area.
Speaking at a hastily organized news conference at 4 p.m. ET, Bonnardel said the situation was under control. However, he said, Transports Québec is likely to keep the highway closed until Thursday morning.
Bonnardel said a fence runs along the highway, intended to alleviate visibility problems caused by blowing snow.
He said should an investigation find that other safety measures could have been taken to help prevent the collisions, Transports Québec will take the appropriate steps.
Danielle McCann, the province’s health minister, said three hospitals in the area initiated a Code Orange — a hospital-wide warning that alerts staff that multiple casualties are on the way.
“It was a very prompt operation, and they are still on the scene, obviously,” she said. “We are taking care of people on the scene.”
Provincial police are asking motorists to avoid the area, and if you are on the road, drive carefully, adapting to the difficult weather conditions.
SQ spokesperson Sgt. Ann Mathieu told CBC Montreal’s Let’s Go that weather can be a factor in collisions, but “the most important factor is the driver.”
Failing to adapt to road conditions is what causes these types of situations, she said.
Quebec Transport Minister François Bonnardel says the major pileup on Highway 15 was caused by heavy winds blowing snow that was already on the ground, severely reducing visibility. <a href=”https://t.co/rscY8S63no”>pic.twitter.com/rscY8S63no</a>