SHIJIAZHUANG, May 24 (Xinhua) -- The death toll has risen to 13 after a traffic accident inside a tunnel in north China's Hebei Province Tuesday morning.
The accident happened at around 6:20 a.m., when an oil tanker rear-ended a coal truck in a highway tunnel linking cities of Zhangjiakou and Shijiazhuang in Laiyuan County.
The collision took place 30 meters from the tunnel exit causing an explosion and subsequent fire that damaged nine vehicles, one of which was carrying sodium chlorate while five others were loaded with coal.
Rescuers confirmed the 13 deaths at the site, and three severely injured were sent to the hospital. Investigators believe that a total of 18 people should have been inside the vehicles when the accident happened, leaving two people currently unaccounted for.
The explosion and resultant fire also damaged several nearby homes, injuring 17 residents and one rescuer.
Maintenance workers are clearing debris and repairing damage to the highway to allow traffic to resume as soon as possible.