ST. PAUL (AP) -- A pillar of fire lit up the night sky after a tanker truck rolled over and exploded on Interstate 94 on Thursday night, forcing the closure of the busy freeway in both directions.
Kent Barnard, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said the tanker rolled over on an entrance ramp near the Lafayette bridge on the eastern edge of downtown around 8:45 p.m.
It wasn't immediately clear what caused the accident. The highway was reopened around 4:30 a.m. Friday.
The 48-year-old driver was found crawling up a dirt bank, firefighters said. He was taken to a hospital with broken ribs, but nobody else was injured and no other vehicles were involved, officials said.
Witnesses said the windows of their homes rattled as the tanker blew. Minnesota Pollution Control Agency spokesman Sam Brungardt said the tanker was carrying thousands of gallons of naptha, a petroleum byproduct with industrial uses.
While water cannons sprayed water from a safe distance, firefighters said there was little they could do but let the fire burn itself out because of the intense heat. The fire was so intense that it melted the asphalt.
"We can't get close to the fire, obviously, and we don't know what's going on around the vehicle," Deputy Fire Chief Peter Bream said. "At this point it seems like nothing but the fire, but until we can get closer we're not sure. ... The next move is, from what we've seen, is to let the product burn off, keep people at a safe distance, and wait until the fire goes out."
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