The driver of a liquefied gas tanker was killed when it exploded in Mathura on Thursday morning, leading to traffic snarls on the Agra-Delhi National Highway till late Thursday evening.

The explosion caused large-scale damage in the 100-metre radius from where the blast took place.

Some cows were burnt in a nearby shelter, while the road-side dhabas were reduced to ashes. The gas tanker was in flames for more than eight hours on the main highway.

Over half a dozen fire tenders from the Mathura Refinery were pressed into service to extinguish the fire.

Tourist vehicles were stranded and had to be diverted through the Yamuna Expressway to reach Agra. Those from Fatehpur Sikri chose to return to Delhi without a visit to the Taj Mahal, police said.

The Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) tanker burst into flames after it hit a stationery truck which ruptured two of its capsules. The gas leak caught fire from an oil wick lamp in a nearby Hanuman temple.

Mathura police said tanker driver Raj Kumar of Farukkhabad district died on the spot.

Eye-witnesses told the police that the 18-tonne LPG tanker was coming to Mathura from Delhi. The truck driver lost balance as he was trying to avoid a posse of policemen who were extorting bribes from all vehicles.

The villagers told the investigating officials that two police jeeps were chasing the ill-fated tanker which had “escaped” without paying the hush money. Mathura district officials said the “accusations” could not be confirmed right away.