Three people have been killed after a lorry burst into flames in a multi-vehicle motorway crash, police confirmed.
The A1 in County Durham was closed for several hours on Friday morning after four cars and two lorries were involved in a collision.
One of the lorries caught fire as a result of the crash.
Images from the scene show the jackknifed lorry in flames and wreckage of other vehicles.
Durham Constabulary have confirmed three people died at the scene - a man who was driving a Toyota Hilux and a man and a woman who were in a Vauxhall Crossland.
They said their families have been informed and are being supported by specially trained officers.
Several others were injured in the collision, with two requiring hospital treatment.
A 41-year-old man – the driver of one of the lorries – has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving. He remains in police custody.
DS Dave Ashton, who is leading the investigation, said: “This was a harrowing incident for everyone involved and our thoughts are with the family and friends of those who have lost their loved ones.
“It has been incredibly upsetting and distressing for those who witnessed the collision, and for the emergency responders, including police officers, firefighters and paramedics, who attended the scene.
“We would therefore ask that people refrain from sharing photographs and videos from the collision out of dignity and respect for those who have lost their lives.
“This will be an extremely complex and lengthy investigation as the site of the collision is spread over some distance, and many of the vehicles involved have been severely damaged.
“The road will remain closed for the rest of the day to allow for specialist collision investigators to work at the scene and to establish the circumstances surrounding the incident.
“The road will also need to be assessed for damage prior to reopening to ensure the safety of future road users. Therefore, motorists should avoid the area and plan ahead if they need to travel.
“We understand the significant disruption that this incident has caused, and would like to thank people for their patience, understanding and cooperation while we work at the scene.”
Durham Constabulary are appealing for information following the smash which took place at 6.30pm on Thursday on the northbound carriageway at Bowburn.
Highways England said the road remains closed in both directions on Friday.
They added: “North is closed J60 to J61 - south is closed J62 to J60 The road will remain closed throughout the day whilst the police continue investigation work. We do not have a time for opening. Please plan your journey.”