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At least 12 dead in Salang tunnel accident in Afghanistan

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

At least 12 people died in an accident in the Salang Tunnel, which connects the Afghan capital Kabul with the north, authorities said.

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

While the fire has been extinguished, Misbah said Sunday the death toll is likely to rise. The cause of the accident remained unclear.

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“When we entered the tunnel in the morning, we saw bodies that were not recognizable, as they were severely burned. There were women, men and children among them,” Ajab Gul, an eyewitness, told the Afghan Tolo news agency.

The iconic tunnel is located some 90 km (56 miles) north of Kabul and is a key link between the north and south of the country.

Military helicopters along with doctors and first aid teams were dispatched to the scene, the Defense Ministry posted on social media.

Cars driving on a road at the Salang Pass in Parwan province December 13, 2011. The Salang Pass connects northern Afghanistan and Central Asian countries with Pakistan.  AFP PHOTO/ Qais USYAN (Photo by QAIS USYAN / AFP)
The treacherous Salang Pass is one of the highest mountain roads 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 burned. “Among the dead it was very difficult to identify who was a man and who was a woman,” he told the AFP news agency.

The 2.6 km (1.6 mi) long Soviet-built tunnel is an engineering feat linking Kabul and northern Afghanistan, connecting the Indian subcontinent to Central Asia through the treacherous Salang Pass, one of the highest mountain roads in the world at about 3,650 meters (12,000 ft).

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The pass is often closed for days due to accidents, heavy snowfall, and avalanches during the winter months.

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

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