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6 people killed, dozens injured as dust storm causes major car crash in Illinois: Officials

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(NEW YORK) — Six people are dead and dozens more injured after a massive pileup Monday in Illinois caused by a sudden dust storm, officials said.

More than 30 people were injured and transported to the hospital, including multiple people with life-threatening injuries, Illinois State Police Maj. Ryan Starrick said during an afternoon press conference. Victims range in age from 2 to 80 years old, Starrick said.

The crash took place at about 11 a.m. local time on Interstate 55 in Montgomery County, officials said. Car accidents were reported on both north and southbound lanes of I-55 for a 2-mile stretch.

Forty to 60 passenger vehicles and at least 30 commercial vehicles were involved in the crash, including two semi-trucks that caught fire, police said.

The cause of the crash was excessive winds blowing dirt from farm fields across the highway, Starrick said. The crash prompted a response from a flurry of emergency vehicles and multiple helicopters.

The Montgomery County Coroner’s Officer confirmed to ABC News the identity of one of the victims as Shirley Harper, 88, of Franklin, Wisconsin, who was a passenger in a vehicle that was being driven by her daughter. Her daughter survived and is currently hospitalized, authorities said.

Leach, who was driving an RV from Illinois to Texas, told ABC News that she had been stuck in traffic behind the massive crash for five hours.

“It actually looks like snow almost when I was sending [my kids] videos,” said Karen Leach, who was caught up in the storm. “And it just it feels like, like the end of the world.”

The stretch of I-55 where the accident took place is expected to be closed at least through the evening, Starrick said.

“My team and I are closely following the devastating crash on I-55 as authorities learn more,” Rep. Nikki Budzinski wrote on Twitter. “Please be safe as this situation continues to unfold.”

The same stretch of interstate was closed again Tuesday “due to high winds and low visibility,” Illinois State Police tweeted, noting that it was ” out of an abundance of caution” and there were no crashes.

ABC News’ Darren Reynolds contributed to this report.

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