A twisting road at the Salang Pass
|Elevation||3,878 m (12,723 ft)|
The Salang Pass (Persian: كتل سالنگ Kotal-e Sālang) (el. 3,878 m or 12,723 ft) is nowadays the major mountain pass connecting northern Afghanistan with Parwan Province, with further connections to Kabul Province and southern Afghanistan, and to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Located on the border of Parwan Province and Baghlan Province, it is just to the east of the Kushan Pass, and both of them were of great importance in early times as they provided the most direct connections between the Kabul region with northern Afghanistan or Tokharistan. The Salang River originates nearby and flows south.
The pass crosses the Hindu Kush mountains but is now bypassed through the Salang Tunnel, which runs underneath it at a height of about 3,400 m. It links Charikar and Kabul in the south with Mazar-i-Sharif and Kunduz in the north. Before the road and tunnel were built, the main route between Kabul and northern Afghanistan was via the Shibar Pass, a much longer route which took three days.
The road through the pass has carried heavy military traffic in recent conflicts and is in very bad repair.
On 3 November 1982, during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, there was a huge fire in the tunnel which at the time was filled with Soviet military convoys. A very large, but unknown number, of Soviet troops were killed in the Salang tunnel fire.
February 2010 avalanches
On February 9, 2010, the pass was hit by multiple avalanches. According to press reports the road through the pass was hit by 17 avalanches, killing dozens, burying miles of highway, and trapping the vehicles in the Salang tunnel. By February 10, 2010 authorities had recovered over 160 bodies. Radio Free Europe reports the first avalanche blocked the tunnel, and trapped vehicles in a traffic jam in a "deadly avalanche zone".
- Library of Congress Country Study: Afghanistan Chapter 2: Mountains
- Rod Norland (2010-02-09). "Avalanches Kill Dozens on Mountain Highway in Afghanistan". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-02-10. "Heavy winds and rain set off 17 avalanches that buried more than two miles of highway at a high-altitude pass in the Hindu Kush mountain range, entombing hundreds of cars and cutting off Kabul’s heavily traveled link to northern Afghanistan, officials said Tuesday."
- Rahim Faiez (2010-02-09). "Avalanches swamp Afghan pass: Scores of bodies pulled from cars as coalition joins search for injured". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2010-02-10. "A series of avalanches engulfed a mountain pass in Afghanistan, trapping hundreds of people in their buried cars and killing at least 24 people, authorities said Tuesday."
- Ahmed Hanayesh, Ron Synovitz (2010-02-10). "From Afghan Avalanche, Tales Of Tragedy And Survival". Radio Free Europe. Retrieved 2010-02-10. "By the evening of February 10, authorities had recovered the bodies of more than 160 victims buried by a series of avalanches. The stories told to RFE/RL by survivors suggest the death toll could rise as search teams continue their work -- and when the spring thaw reveals the full extent of the tragedy. The first avalanche blocked the highway just south of the Salang Tunnel. As the traffic began to pile up, travelers in cars, trucks, and buses found themselves trapped in a deadly avalanche zone. Then, one after another, as many as 16 more avalanches wiped their vehicles off the road."
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