A lorry flipped on to its side tearing down high-voltage power cables and spilling its cargo of frozen meat across a busy road.

The driver escaped death by inches when the overturned truck skidded into a roadside junction box, shattering the windscreen and trapping him.

His co-driver was thrown from the cab into the road by the force of the rush-hour smash.

Power was shut off to almost 1,000 surrounding homes as rescue crews feared sparks could ignite the leaking petrol spilled across the road.

A carpet of foam was laid around the stricken lorry to prevent a potential explosion.

Firefighters battled for two hours to free the trapped driver from the wreck of the Dutch-registered artic following the accident on the A259 at Little Common, Bexhill, at 6pm yesterday.

Paramedics administered emergency treatment as rescuers used heavy-duty cutting equipment to free his legs.

Sub officer Graham Fletcher, from the Bexhill station, said: "He was pinned in by the steering wheel and a British Telecom junction box which had come through the windscreen."

The pair were flown by Sussex Police helicopter to the Conquest Hospital, Hastings, where they were today being treated for serious injuries.

Engineers from Seeboard were called in to repair severed power lines and a telegraph pole which had been uprooted in the accident.

A spokeswoman for the company said 868 customers had power isolated from their homes for half an hour while emergency repairs were carried out.

Four homes remain without mainline power and have been supplied with generators.

The smash caused tailbacks along the main road to Bexhill and Hastings at the height of rush-hour and many drivers were forced to turn back and find alternative routes.

Traffic police laid out diversion signs and cordoned off the area to clear it of debris and tangled lines.

The road was closed all-night and reopened shortly before 6am today.

Sergeant Keith Ellis, of Bexhill Traffic Police, is appealing for witnesses to call him on 0845 6070999.