2010 Salang avalanches

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2010 Salang avalanches
Salang tunnel entrance.jpg
Entrance of the Salang tunnel
Date February 8, 2010 (2010-02-08)
Location Salang, Afghanistan
Deaths 172

The 2010 Salang avalanches consisted of a series of at least 36 avalanches[1] that struck the southern approach to the Salang tunnel, north of Kabul.[2][3][4] They were caused by a freak storm in the Hindu Kush mountains.[3][4][2][5]

Leading up to the disaster[edit]

About 250 avalanches annually strike the road. During the 2008/9 season, the total loss of life in Afghanistan due to avalanche was about 40 people.[6]

On February 7, 2010, the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) reported that 10 people were killed in Kandahar Province. Najibullah Barith, ARCS's director in Kandahar complained about the lack of local and national resources.[7]

A spokesman of the Afghanistan National Disasters Management Authority said that 11 people were killed by avalanches in Farah, Bamyan, Ghor, and Daykundi provinces between February 4 and February 8.[7] The Afghan flash floods and avalanches left 20 others dead in the rest of the country on February 8.[7] The provincial authorities had summoned an emergency meeting and Loya Jurga to discuss responses on February 8. Shah Wali Kot and Shorandam districts were the worst affected.


Mountain passes of Afghanistan

A sudden blizzard struck the area shortly before the disaster, closing the tunnel and the roads around it on both sides of the tunnel.[8] Heavy wind and rain in the area just before the incident caused up to 17 avalanches that buried at least 3.5 km (2.2 mi) of roadway in the Salang Tunnel, trapping thousands of people in their vehicles who were travelling in the tunnel. This also cut off one of the major travel links to Northern Afghanistan.[9]

Official reports soon after the avalanche report up to 64 people were feared dead and that more could die. Afghanistan's interior minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar believed that there could be at least 2,500 people trapped in their vehicles.[10] Many vehicles were pushed down the mountains, and hundreds of cars were buried in snow.[2] Among the survivors many injuries were reported.[11]

The tunnel was reopened on February 12, 2010.[12]


The Afghan National Army was forming the main backbone of the recovery effort with at least 500 troops sent to the area as well as 2 helicopters and several bulldozers. NATO International Security Assistance Force forces also gave their support providing four Chinook helicopters, as well as using helicopters to drop food and medical supplies to those trapped in their vehicles.[2][13] The injured had been taken to Charikar Hospital in Parwan Province, and the more seriously injured had been taken to Bagram air base where they received more advanced medical treatment from coalition doctors.[14]

Beside the direct injuries from the avalanche, there was also the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning inside the poorly ventilated tunnel, while the traffic was stalled for a long time.[6] By February 10, about 2,500 people had been rescued, but it was feared that more people were still buried in their snow-trapped vehicles.[8]


Institutional authorities including the National Meteorology Authority (NMA) came under criticism for allowing the disaster to unfold.[15] Although heavy snowfall had been forecast in the Salang area and structural walls had been weakened in previous avalanches, the pass was not closed and no preparations had been put in place. Officials point out that Afghanistan lacks the resources and infrastructure for the prevention and management of natural disasters and relies to some degree upon help by the UN and international forces.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kabul fears avalanche toll could rise
  2. ^ a b c d Rod Norland (9 February 2010). "Avalanches Kill Dozens on Mountain Highway in Afghanistan". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 12 February 2010. Retrieved 10 February 2010. 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. 
  3. ^ a b Rahim Faiez (9 February 2010). "Avalanches swamp Afghan pass: Scores of bodies pulled from cars as coalition joins search for injured". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 13 February 2010. Retrieved 10 February 2010. 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. 
  4. ^ a b Ahmed Hanayesh, Ron Synovitz (10 February 2010). "From Afghan Avalanche, Tales Of Tragedy And Survival". Radio Free Europe. Archived from the original on 12 February 2010. Retrieved 10 February 2010. 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 fullof extent of epic precations 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. 
  5. ^ Officials: Afghan avalanches kill 157 people
  6. ^ a b Starkey J (February 10, 2010). "Avalanches kill 64 and injure dozens near Salang tunnel". The Times. UK. Retrieved February 10, 2010. 
  7. ^ a b c "In Brief: Afghan floods, avalanches leave 20 dead". Reuters. 8 Feb 2010. Retrieved 2 August 2010. 
  8. ^ a b "Afghanistan avalanches kill at least 165 in Salang Pass". BBC. 10 February 2010. Archived from the original on 11 February 2010. Retrieved 10 February 2010. 
  9. ^ "Afghanistan avalanches kill at least 165 in Salang Pass". BBC News. 10 February 2010. Retrieved 7 February 2017. 
  10. ^ Avalanches Kill Dozens on Mountain Highway in Afghanistan
  11. ^ "Officials: Afghan avalanches may have killed over 60". Toronto Sun. 9 February 2010. Retrieved 9 February 2010. 
  12. ^ Trend news agency (13 February 2010). "Afghanistan reopens Salang Pass after avalanches kill 172". Archived from the original on 23 March 2010. Retrieved 14 February 2010. 
  13. ^ "Afghan Forces Lead Rescue Efforts"
  14. ^ Officials: Afghan avalanches may have killed over 60
  15. ^ a b IRINnews (February 15, 2010). "Lessons from the Salang pass desaster". Retrieved March 7, 2010. 

Coordinates: 35°19′19″N 69°01′36″E / 35.3219°N 69.0267°E / 35.3219; 69.0267