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At least 10 die in Florida highway pileup

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- A long line of cars and trucks collided one after another early yesterday on a dark Florida highway so shrouded in haze and smoke that drivers were virtually blinded.

At least 10 people were killed.

Visibility was so poor that when rescuers first arrived, they could only listen for screams and moans to locate victims, police said. At least 18 people were hurt.

Authorities were still trying to determine what caused the pileup south of Gainesville on Interstate 75, which had been closed for a time because of the mixture of fog and heavy smoke from a brush fire in the nearby Paynes Prairie that may have been intentionally set.

At least five cars and six tractor-trailers were involved, and some burst into flames.

Photographs of the scene revealed a gruesome aftermath of twisted, burned-out vehicles scattered across the pavement, with smoke still rising above the wreckage.

Cars appeared to have smashed into the big rigs and, in one case, a motor home. Some cars were crushed beneath the heavier trucks.

Reporters who viewed the site saw one tractor-trailer that was burned down to its skeleton, charred pages of books and magazines in its cargo area.

State police estimated that wreckage was strewn for nearly a mile in both directions.

All six lanes of the interstate, which runs virtually the entire length of Florida, remained closed at midday as investigators surveyed the site and firefighters sprayed foam on the wreckage to put out the last of the fires.

It was not clear when the highway would reopen because part of the road had melted, Highway Patrol Lt. Patrick Riordan said. That means transportation inspectors have to first sign off on the road before it can be opened to traffic again.-- AP

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