“I'M very lucky to be alive.”

Those were the words of a lorry driver who escaped his cab just seconds before it exploded.

Andy Lovelock had only just set off on his journey when smoke started coming from the dashboard, then flames.

He described how he was just feet away when there was an explosion followed by 15 ft high flames.

Incredibly he only suffered a minor burn to his hand in the incident at Redbridge Roundabout in Southampton.

Firefighters had to close the roundabout completely to protect the public until they had established that the lorry trailer was empty, which caused long tailbacks for motorists.

Mr Lovelock had come from Southampton docks with an empty container, which he was driving to Cornwall that morning.

The 46-year-old had parked up the vehicle overnight near the Harley Davidson garage.

The drama unfolded just minutes after he set off on his journey.

“On the roundabout I started to see flames, I drove round to get off the main road,” said Mr Lovelock, from Locks Heath, who works for Swallowtail, driving containers to and from the docks to locations around the country.

“I got the lorry here, got out and it just exploded.”

He told he had tried to disconnect cables at the back of the cab to stop the fire spreading and as he went to get back in the cab to drive it forward the explosion happened.

The force blew bits from the lorry onto the pavement several metres away.

But luckily both Mr Lovelock and a passing cyclist, who was on the pavement nearby, escaped injury.

“It was a serious fire - it covered the sky in smoke,” he added.

“It was just like an inferno.

“I stood here shaking trying to ring 999.

“I'd only been driving for two or three minutes.

“If I'd got up later I might not have got up at all.”

Though shaken by the incident and “devastated” to lose possessions inside, Mr Lovelock said he would be back on the road later that day.

Firefighters from Redbridge and Totton raced to the scene at 6am this morning and tackled the flames with a hose and a jet.

Redbridge Watch Manager Phil Swainston said: “We could see the smoke on the way down and when we got there the whole of the cab was well alight.”

A Hampshire Fire and Rescue spokeswoman said the cause of the fire was not known, but it would not be investigating.