A “certain project of a Chinese firm in Pakistan suffered an attack,” China’s embassy says with officials in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa suspecting sabotage.
At least nine Chinese workers were among 13 people killed on Wednesday when a blast on a bus reportedly sent it careering down a ravine in north-western Pakistan.
The bus was carrying Chinese engineers, surveyors and mechanical staff to the Dasu dam site in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which is under construction.
“The blast sparked a fire in the engine plunging the vehicle into a ravine, a local government official told AFP, requesting not be named.
He said a further 28 Chinese nationals were injured.
A senior local police official, who also asked not to be named, confirmed the incident and said “it was a heavy blast but its nature is not known yet”.
Inspector General Moazzam Jah Ansari, the top police official of Khyber-Paktunkhwa, said that police were investigating. “Looks like sabotage,” Ansari said as he was departing on a helicopter for the site.
“The bus plunged into a deep ravine after the blast and caused heavy losses. One Chinese engineer and one soldier are missing. The rescue operation is launched and the entire government machinery has been mobilised to rescue the injured by air ambulance,” another senior government official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
China later asked Pakistan to thoroughly investigate the bus blast on Wednesday, the foreign ministry said.
Beijing condemned the blast, expressed condolences and asked Pakistan to protect the safety of Chinese personnel, institutions and projects, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular news briefing.
The Chinese embassy in Pakistan had earlier also posted a statement on Wednesday, saying that “a certain project of a Chinese firm in Pakistan suffered an attack, which caused the deaths of Chinese nationals”.
It urged Chinese firms to strengthen their security procedures.
Deputy Commissioner of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province’s Kohistan district, Arif Javed, said the incident was a result of an accident that took place following an overnight rain.
The Dasu hydroelectric project is part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a $65 billion investment plan under Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative that is aimed at connecting western China to the Gwadar sea port in southern Pakistan.
Chinese engineers along with Pakistani construction workers havebeen working on the Dasu hydroelectric project and several others for several years in the region where the blast took place.
Security of Chinese workers has long been an issue of concern in Pakistan, where Beijing has poured in tens of billions of dollars in recent years, and large numbers of Chinese nationals are now based in the country to supervise and build infrastructure projects.