Pakistani rescue officials inspect the bus following the explosion on July 14, 2021. Photo: CNN
Rescuers have pulled survivors from a ravine in northern Pakistan after an explosion sent their bus over the edge, killing thirteen passengers, including nine Chinese nationals and two Pakistani soldiers.
Reuters reported unnamed Pakistani sources as saying the incident occurred on Wednesday as the victims were traveling to the site of a hydroelectric project in the remote province of Khyber-Paktunkhwa.
For several years, Chinese engineers and Pakistani construction workers have been working on power projects as part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative.
“The entire government machinery has been mobilised to rescue the injured by air ambulance,” a senior Pakistani government official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. The official said “heavy losses” resulted from the plunge into the ravine.
A Pakistani foreign ministry statement blamed a mechanical failure for a “leakage of gas that caused a blast”. But China’s foreign ministry condemned the explosion as a bomb attack that caused injuries and death to its nationals.
Nine Chinese were killed, the embassy in Pakistan said in a statement.
In Beijing, a foreign ministry spokesman offered condolences, urging Pakistan to thoroughly investigate the blast and protect the safety of Chinese personnel, institutions and projects.
The ill-fated bus was carrying more than thirty Chinese engineers to the site of the Dasu dam in Upper Kohistan, according to a senior Pakistani official.
The Dasu hydroelectric project is part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a 65-billion-Dollar investment plan, which aims to link western China to the southern Pakistani port of Gwadar.
The casualties were taken to a hospital in Dasu, about 10 kilometres from the blast site.