EVERETT, Mass. (AP) - A tanker truck carrying about 9,000 gallons of gas overturned and caught fire early Wednesday, creating a torrent of fire that ignited at least two homes and as many as 40 cars. Officials said there were no immediate reports of serious injuries. Residents, including more than 80 people who lived in an elderly housing complex, were evacuated and a nearby armory was turned into a shelter.
``In consideration of everything the firefighters at the scene had to deal with, I think it's a miracle that we haven't seen any serious injuries,'' Everett Fire Chief David Butler said at a news conference.
The tanker overturned about 1:45 a.m. at the traffic circle connecting Routes 16 and 99 north of Boston. The tanker was destroyed in the fire, but the driver was able to escape.
Chris Barrow said he was asleep in his home when he heard a ``big bang.'' He came outside to a chaotic scene.
``Everybody was running because it looked like the fire was going to keep coming down the street at us, so we were just trying to get as far away as possible,'' Barrow told WBZ-AM.
``I jumped into my car and started backing up, not knowing that the fire was spreading all the way around us and behind us and I had to drive over the fire,'' he said.
Barrow said he then realized that his own vehicle was burning.
``We got out of the car and ran and it exploded about two minutes after,'' he said.
At daybreak, a large plume of black smoke hovered over the area as firefighters continued to battle the blaze in one of the homes. Their efforts initially were hampered by frozen hydrants and icy conditions with the temperature below freezing.
State police were investigating the accident, and a witness told police the truck had been speeding, said Maj. Kevin Kelly. The driver lost control of the tanker, flipped over and struck a guardrail, said Kelly, who added that roads were dry at the time.
Butler said there was concern that some of the fuel got into storm drains. State environmental officials and the Coast Guard were called to the scene to investigate.
Everett is a city of approximately 38,000 residents.