An elephant died and two others were injured yesterday when a circus truck carrying them crashed on a Spanish highway, prompting an elaborate rescue after the animals tipped onto the road.

The truck was overtaking a slow vehicle on the highway near Pozo Canada in the central region of Castilla-La Mancha when it suddenly overturned, said a spokeswoman for the DGT, the government department that oversees Spain's road network.

The highway was closed to traffic for around two hours as authorities sent cranes to lift the injured elephants onto other vehicles and move them from the road.

One video showed an elephant being lifted as firefighters stabilised it by holding its feet, one of which appeared to be wrapped in a bandage.

There were five elephants in the truck and another video showed the two uninjured elephants being led away from the scene.

Photos of the accident showed the truck lying on its side across the highway, with some of the elephants standing nearby.