Ten Chinese nationals are among at least 13 people killed when a bus plunged into a ravine after an explosion on Wednesday in northern Pakistan.
The vehicle was carrying more than 30 Chinese engineers to the site of the Dasu dam project in Upper Kohistan when the incident took place. At least 36 people were injured in the accident, Arif Javed, a deputy district commissioner, told the Associated Press.
It was initially suspected to be an attack, with the Chinese government calling on Pakistan to take action against the “attackers” and saying the bus was “hit by blast on its way to the construction site”.
But the Pakistani foreign ministry has now said that the bus fell into a ravine in the Khyber-Paktunkhwa province "after a mechanical failure, resulting in leakage of gas that caused a blast.”
In a statement, the ministry said preliminary reports showed nine Chinese nationals and three Pakistanis died in the incident. “Chinese workers and accompanying Pakistani staff were proceeding to their work place for an ongoing project,” it said. The ministry said “further investigations are under way”.
Local authorities later told the Associated Press that a tenth Chinese worker, who was critically injured, died in hospital. The dead and the injured were taken to the regional health centre in Dasu.
The Water and Power Development Authority also described the incident as an “accident”, saying rescue efforts were underway, according to Dawn.
Condemning the blast, China called on Pakistan to throughly investigate the incident. Its foreign affairs ministry said that Pakistan must arrest those responsible and protect the safety of the Chinese people and its institutions there, according to China Daily.
“We mourn over the Chinese and Pakistani personnel killed in the attack and express sympathies to bereaved families and the wounded,” said China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian at a daily news briefing.
The Chinese embassy asked Chinese citizens and enterprises in Pakistan to stay on alert, take strict precautions, and stop going out unless necessary.
Earlier in June, at least 17 people were presumed to have died after a passenger van plunged into a river in the Upper Kohistan district. The incident happened when the driver lost control of his vehicle, officials said at the time.