Salang tunnel fire

Salang tunnel fire

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The Salang tunnel fire occurred on 3 November 1982 in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

's Salang tunnel
Salang tunnel
The Salang Tunnel , located in Parwan province, is a link between northern and southern Afghanistan crossing the Hindukush mountain range under the difficult Salang Pass....

 during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Details are uncertain, but the incident may have been the deadliest known road accident, and one of the deadliest fire
Fire
Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction products. Slower oxidative processes like rusting or digestion are not included by this definition....

s of modern times.

Overview


The Salang tunnel, which opened the famous Salang Pass (or Kotal-e Salang) to motor traffic, was built by Soviet engineers and eased traffic across the Hindu Kush
Hindu Kush
The Hindu Kush is an mountain range that stretches between central Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. The highest point in the Hindu Kush is Tirich Mir in the Chitral region of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan.It is the westernmost extension of the Pamir Mountains, the Karakoram Range, and is a...

 mountain range that separates northern and southern Afghanistan.

Very few facts are known about the fire. All information available constitutes little more than hearsay, in part because the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

was not inclined to reveal massive losses during wartime. Most sources agree that it involved a Red Army convoy traveling southward through the tunnel.

Initial reports described fuel and ordnance explosions, and estimates of the death toll were as high as 2,700. The death toll was subsequently revised downwards many times.

FROM SOVIET MILITARY DATABASE:
On 3 November 1982 two military convoys (2211 and 2212) collided in the Salang tunnel causing a traffic jam.
There were no fire or explosions. 64 Soviet soldiers and 112 Afghan people were killed by carbon monoxide emitted by idling engines.

Another report from a traveller, who has been to the region, sounds very different from this official version:
A fuel tanker in a military convoy exploded inside (the cause of the explosion remains somewhat in doubt with the Russians still claiming it was an accident and the Mujahideen still claiming it was a successful attack) the Salang Tunnel, unleashing a chain reaction of fiery explosions and death. Drivers of cars, trucks and buses evidently continued to enter the tunnel after the explosion. Soviet troops, fearing that the explosion might have been a rebel attack, closed off both ends with tanks, trapping many inside. Some burned to death; others were killed by smoke and by carbon monoxide escaping from vehicles whose drivers kept their engines idling to stay warm in the freezing cold. As many as 700 Soviet troops and 2,000 Afghan soldiers and civilians may have died.

On 23 February 1980 another similar accident killed 16 Soviet soldiers in the Salang tunnel.

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