Road crash inferno in Afghanistan leaves 35 dead

Many of the victims, including women and children, were burned beyond recognition in the accident in Zabul province.

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KANDAHAR // At least 35 people were killed on Sunday when a passenger bus collided with a fuel tanker and burst into flames in southern Afghanistan.

Many of the victims, including women and children, were burnt beyond recognition in the accident in Zabul province, one of the areas worst affected by the Taliban insurgency.

The driver of the oil tanker and a co-passenger died immediately after the truck burst into flames during the early morning hours on Sunday.

“The passenger bus was on its way from Kandahar to Kabul when it collided with a fuel tanker in Jildak area of Zabul,” provincial governor Bismillah Afghanmal said.

“In the accident, 35 people were killed and more than 20 others were wounded.”

Ghulam Jilani Farahi, deputy police chief of Zabul province where the accident occurred, said authorities could identify only six bodies.

Some of the injured were rushed to hospitals in provincial capital Qalat as well as neighbouring Kandahar province, said Mr Farahi.

The Kabul-Kandahar motorway passes through militancy-prone areas and many bus drivers are known to drive recklessly at top speeds so as not to get caught in insurgent activity.

Afghanistan has some of the world’s most dangerous roads, often in dilapidated condition and traffic rules are seldom enforced.

Many in the country rely on old and rickety passenger vehicles, meaning that high casualty road traffic accidents are common.

In May, at least 73 people were killed when two passenger buses and an oil tanker burst into flames in a head-on collision in eastern Ghazni province, in one of the worst road accidents in the war-battered nation.

And in April 2013 a bus hit a wrecked fuel tanker in the southern province of Kandahar, killing 45 people.

The World Bank last November signed off a US$250 million (Dh 920m) grant to upgrade roads crossing Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush mountains, crucial trade links that are often closed in winter by snow.

Insecurity is growing across Afghanistan as the Taliban press on with their 15-year insurgency against the western-backed Kabul government.

Afghan troops have struggled to stave off nationwide insurgent attacks since Nato forces ended their combat mission at the end of 2014.

Afghan forces backed by US troops are seeking to head off a potential Taliban takeover of Lashkar Gah, the capital of the southern opium-rich province of Helmand.

The Taliban have also closed in on Kunduz — the northern city they briefly seized last year in their biggest military victory so far — leaving Afghan forces stretched on multiple fronts.

* Agence France-Presse, additional reporting from Reuters