19 people dead with several dozens others injured in tunnel fire in Afghanistan

Smoke in the Salang Tunnel

At least 19 people have been killed and dozens injured in a fire inside a road tunnel in Afghanistan, local officials say.

An oil tanker overturned and caught fire in the Salang Tunnel – which links the capital Kabul to the northern provinces – on Saturday evening.

The blaze spread to other vehicles before it was put out the next morning.

Pictures posted on social media showed several vehicles totally charred after the incident.

“The fuel tanker exploded… I fell down. My clothes caught fire,” one witness, who was wounded in the tunnel, told Tolo news.

Some of the bodies were severely burned, a senior health official in Parwan said in quotes cited by AFP news agency.

“Among the dead it was very hard to identify who was a male and who was a female,” Abdullah Afghan Mal said, a senior health official in Parwan said, according to AFP news agency.

At least 32 people were wounded, another official said. It’s thought the number of casualties could still rise.

The Ministry of Public Works said the pass had been closed to traffic while rescue operations were carried out.

The Salang Tunnel is 2.6km (1.6 miles) long and is located at an altitude of around 3,400m (11,154ft).

Hailed as an engineering masterpiece on its completion in the 1960s by the Soviet Union, the major route through the Hindu Kush mountains is often shut for days because of accidents and avalanches.

A fire in the tunnel in 1982 killed at least 400 people, although some estimates put the death toll in the thousands.

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