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71-vehicle pileup in Houston blamed on fog

Cars piled up Saturday morning on the Sam Houston Parkway.
Cars piled up Saturday morning on the Sam Houston Parkway.

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HOUSTON, Texas (CNN) -- Police blamed dense fog for a 71-vehicle pileup that injured about 30 people Saturday morning in south Houston.

The accident occurred at 7:30 a.m. (8:30 a.m. ET) on the Sam Houston Parkway, also known as Beltway 8 South.

The injured -- including a number of children -- were taken to hospitals, said Capt. Ray Valenta with Constable Precinct 5 in Harris County.

Wrecks were littered across lanes in both directions -- 36 in westbound lanes and 35 in eastbound lanes, Valenta said.

"The accident started with just poor visibility," said Deputy John Lee of Constable Precinct 7. "Fog came in and it came in quite rapidly."

In the westbound lanes, a number of vehicles crashed into a cement truck, which itself was atop a pickup truck, and caught fire. In all, nine vehicles caught fire.

"It looked like a battlefield," Valenta said. "Vehicles in all kinds of positions, burnt, the fires were still going ... it's just something you see out of a movie, and you just don't expect it to happen, but it does happen."

"It's just God's will that nobody was killed out of it," he said.

"I don't know how some of the people survived, because some of the cars are burnt down to the shell itself," Lee said.

The posted speed limit on the roadway is 65 mph, but no one should have been traveling that fast in the thick fog, Lee said. "You have to adjust your speed to make it safe."

Traffic was halted for several hours in both directions as emergency workers took the injured to hospitals and extinguished the fires. Burnt-out hulks of vehicles were piled on top of each other on the highway, a strip of road elevated over another highway

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