October 6, 2010 / 8:11 AM / 8 years ago

Traffic mayhem adds to Afghan capital's woes

KABUL (Reuters Life!) - The houses and grand mansions rising in the posh Sher Pur enclave of Kabul are worth millions of dollars, but many of its streets are just potholed dirt roads.

The mud roads contribute to Kabul’s traffic problems, and the city’s security headaches make them even worse.

Unruly police speed up the wrong side of roads, while major thoroughfares are routinely shut for the protection of government leaders going about their business.

Trigger-happy security men and convoys of heavily armed foreign troops add to the mayhem.

Traffic jams can last hours, even holding up funerals and preventing pregnant women making it to hospital to give birth.

Built to accommodate 200,000 people and 80,000 vehicles, Kabul has a population of more than 4 million people with more than 400,000 vehicles squeezed in.

About 200,000 of the vehicles arrived in the past two years, said Ehsanullah, at Kabul’s traffic department, and more are imported daily.

Babies who survive on-the-road births have even been nicknamed for the events that prevented them from making their arrival in hospital. Pet names include “parade day” and “mujahideen victory day,” residents say.

And deaths as well as births are affected by the jams, which at times slow traffic to a painful kilometer (half a mile) or so an hour.

Frustrated after nearly an hour going nowhere, one man this week jumped off the back of a motor rickshaw and hoisted an empty coffin onto his shoulder.

He then took off running down the blocked street, apparently trying to get to a funeral on time.

Transportation of people wounded in the city’s regular attacks and explosions adds a more tragic dimension to the problem. Reaching hospital is a daunting task with panicked people trying to escape the area blocking roads and sidewalks.

Editing by Ema Graham-Harrison and Robert Birsel

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