Over 73 killed in fiery Afghan road crash

An injured man in an ambulance in Ghazni yesterday, after an oil tanker and two buses collided on the Kabul-Kandahar highway.
An injured man in an ambulance in Ghazni yesterday, after an oil tanker and two buses collided on the Kabul-Kandahar highway.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

GHAZNI • At least 73 people were killed yesterday when two buses and an oil tanker burst into flames following a head-on collision in eastern Afghanistan - one of the war-torn nation's worst road accidents.

Many of the dead, including women and children, were burnt beyond recognition; dozens of others were wounded. The accident took place in Ghazni, a province badly hit by the Taleban insurgency.

"The death toll has soared to 73," ministry spokesman Ismail Kawoosi told Agence France-Presse, warning that the toll was expected to rise further.

"Most of them are completely burned. Many of the survivors have been rushed to hospitals in (southern) Kandahar city and Ghazni."

The collision occurred on the highway connecting the cities of Kabul and Kandahar - a major roadway that passes through volatile insurgent areas.

Many bus drivers are known to drive recklessly at top speeds in order to avoid insurgent activity.

"Our driver was at fault - he was driving too rashly," said Mr Esmatullah, one of the few lucky passengers to survive the crash, sustaining only minor injuries.

"Most bus drivers on the highways are known to smoke hashish, opium and other drugs. They are completely out of control."

Afghanistan has some of the world's most dangerous roads. Many people rely on old and rickety passenger vehicles, which means high-casualty road traffic accidents are common.

At least 18 people were killed in May last year when a minivan overturned in the western province of Badghis. In April 2013, a bus hit a wrecked fuel tanker in the southern province of Kandahar, killing 45 people.

The World Bank in November signed off on a US$250 million (S$388 million) grant to upgrade roads crossing Afghanistan's Hindu Kush mountains - crucial trade links that are often closed in winter by snow.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2016, with the headline 'Over 73 killed in fiery Afghan road crash'. Print Edition | Subscribe