The Americans have been repairing the Salang tunnel in Afghanistan. Nearly two miles long and 11,000 feet up in the Hindu Kush mountains, it was an engineering wonder when it was built by the Soviet Union in the 1960’s. Now it has a leaky roof, a rutted surface, and failing ventilation and lighting.
On November 3, 1982, the tunnel was the scene of one of the world’s deadliest ever road accidents – assuming that it was an accident.
The official Soviet version is that two military convoys collided, causing a traffic jam in which 64 Soviet soldiers and 112 Afghan people were poisoned by carbon monoxide. Unofficial reports speak of a fuel tanker blowing up, perhaps as a result of an attack by Afghan guerrillas.
It is said that this resulted in a deadly chain reaction of explosions, while the Russians sealed off both ends of the tunnel, trapping hundreds of people inside. In this unofficial version, 700 Soviet troops and 2,000 Afghans may have died.