At least 12 killed in accident in Afghanistan’s Salang Tunnel

The government said 37 people were injured after a fuel tanker caught fire, and the death toll was expected to rise.

Afghan medical staff carry the bodies of the victims who lost their lives after an oil tanker caught fire a night before at Salang pass tunnel in Charikar city on December 18, 2022. (Photo by Farid Tanha / AFP)
Medical workers carry the bodies of those who were killed after an oil tanker caught fire on Saturday, December 17 in the Salang Tunnel in Afghanistan [Farid Tanha/AFP]

At least 12 people were killed in an accident in the Salang Tunnel, which connects Afghanistan’s capital Kabul to its north, the authorities have said.

Thirty-seven people were injured on Saturday after a fuel tanker caught fire, said Molvi Hamiddullah Misbah, a spokesperson for the Public Works Ministry.

While the fire had been extinguished, Misbah said on Sunday that the death toll was likely to rise. The cause of the accident remained unclear.

“When we went inside the tunnel in the morning, we saw bodies that were not recognisable, as they were severely burnt. Women, men and children were among them,” Ajab Gul, an eyewitness, told the Afghan Tolo news agency.

The landmark tunnel is located about 90km (56 miles) north of Kabul and is a key link between the country’s north and south.

Military helicopters along with medics and first aid teams were sent to the scene, the Defence Ministry posted on social media.

Car drive down a highway on Salang pass in Parwan province on December 13, 2011. Salang pass connects the north of Afghanistan and central Asian countries to Pakistan. AFP PHOTO/ Qais USYAN (Photo by QAIS USYAN / AFP)
The treacherous Salang pass is one of the highest mountain highways in the world [File: Qais Usyan/AFP]

Abdullah Afghan Mal, a senior health official in Parwan province, said many of the dead included women and children whose bodies were badly burnt. “Among the dead it was very hard to identify who was a male and who was a female,” he told the AFP news agency.

The 2.6-km (1.6-mile) long Soviet-built tunnel is an engineering feat that links Kabul and Afghanistan’s north, connecting the Indian subcontinent to Central Asia through the treacherous Salang pass, one of the highest mountain highways in the world at about 3,650 metres (12,000 feet).

The pass is often shut for days because of accidents, heavy snowfall and avalanches during the winter months.

In 2010, avalanches killed more than 150 people in the Salang pass.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies