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Postby thewalrus » Wed Mar 17, 2010 3:44 pm

(I wonder if it's statistically more dangerous to drive back and forth between Kabul-Mazar-e-Sharif once every couple of weeks, or to skydive without a reserve chute...)

35 killed in Afghanistan bus crash: ministry

(AFP) – 7 hours ago

KABUL — At least 35 people were killed Wednesday in a fiery collision between a bus and a truck on a treacherous pass in northern Afghanistan, the interior ministry said.

The bus was travelling north from Kabul along the narrow Salang pass when it "had an accident with a truck, as a result of which 35 passengers, including women, men and children, were killed," a ministry statement said.

The Salang pass connecting northern and southern Afghanistan is a notoriously dangerous stretch of road, and the scene of avalanches in February that killed 170 people.

The interior ministry said Wednesday's accident appeared to have been caused by the "narrow width of the road and the carelessness of the driver."

"In the first moments after the incident police and first aid health workers arrived on the site and transferred a number people to the provincial hospital," it said.

It did not give details of the number of injured.

The bus crashed into an oil tanker, according to Abdul Rahman Sayed, provincial police chief of Parwan province, at the southern end of the pass.

"The bus hit an oil tanker and the tanker burst into flames," he told AFP.

The type of bus involved in the crash could accommodate more than 50 passengers, according to the ministry's statement.

In February, the Salang was closed for four days as rescue workers dug through heavy snow and ice to recover bodies after one of the country's worst natural disasters.

A blizzard and resulting massive avalanches sent cars and buses tumbling into the rocky valley below and trapping hundreds of people.

Afghan soldiers backed by local villagers and rescue dogs spent days digging for survivors, with the final toll put at 170.

The pass provides the shortest route linking the two ends of the mountainous country.

One of the highest highways in the world at around 3,650 metres (12,000 feet), the Salang pass includes a 2.6-kilometre tunnel and was hailed as an engineering feat after it was completed with Soviet help in the 1950s.

Due to its relative isolation, much of northern Afghanistan is somewhat sheltered from the eight-year Taliban insurgency that 113,000 NATO and US troops are trying to quell.

Traffic on the Salang pass is building as Afghans prepare to celebrate the Nowruz new year, which falls on March 21.

Many people travel to the northern provinces to spend the national holiday in one of the most peaceful regions of the war-wracked country.
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