Kabul, Dec 19 (EFE).- The death toll climbed to 31 while some 37 were injured after an oil tanker caught fire inside a tunnel on a strategic highway connecting northern Afghanistan with the south, officials said on Monday.
The incident took place inside the Salang tunnel in the eastern Parwan province on Saturday night, while search and rescue efforts continue.
“So far from the Salang tunnel the medical teams have taken 37 wounded to medical centers and brought out 31 martyred and the figures may rise further,” tweeted Public Health Ministry spokesperson Sharafat Zman Amar.
He added that the authorities had not ruled out the toll rising further, and that rescue efforts were still underway.
The Salang Tunnel, built in 1965 by the Soviets, is almost 2.7 km long and runs through the Hindu Kush mountains between the Parwan and Baghlan provinces. It is about 100 km from Kabul.
The strategic pass is the only all-weather road link between northern Afghanistan, the capital, and the southern parts.
The tunnel has witnessed several accidents due to the accumulation of gases and snow avalanches.
The Salang tunnel was targeted in 1997 by the Northern Alliance to slice Afghanistan in two and hinder the advance of the Taliban militia.
The destruction of the ventilation systems and the planting of mines and explosives inside the tunnel turned it into a treacherous route for its travelers.
Pre-Taliban governments spent millions of dollars on the renovation of the tunnel.
In 2010, more than 160 people were buried and another 100 were injured after a series of snow avalanches blocked the tunnel and damaged dozens of vehicles. EFE