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At least 12 people, including nine Chinese workers, were killed on Wednesday when the bus they were travelling in was struck by a 'blast' in the Kohistan district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
The bus was ferrying workers of the Dasu dam project. According to area officials, multiple passengers were also injured in the incident.
"At around 7 am on 14 July local time, a Chinese company's shuttle bus carrying working staff on the Dasu Hydropower Project in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province was hit by blast on its way to the construction site," said the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan.
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 seaport in southern Pakistan.
However, the Foreign Office (FO) said the bus “plunged into a ravine after a mechanical failure resulting in leakage of gas that caused a blast”.
Speaking to Express News, Deputy Commissioner Arif Khan Yousafzai confirmed the death toll and said nine Chinese workers and three locals were among the dead. He added that the bus was carrying more than 30 people at the time of the incident.
“Police and the bomb disposal squad are at the site; as soon as the report from the investigation comes, we will be able to tell you the factual position,” added Yousufzai
DPO Upper Kohistan also said the cause of the incident is being investigated. Other police officials said that rescue and security personnel reached the site soon after the incident.
The dead and injured, including the Chinese engineers, were brought to the Regional Health Centre in Dasu, about 10 km from the incident site.
The FO added local authorities are providing all assistance to the injured and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in close “contact with the Chinese Embassy for coordination and facilitation”.
“The Government and people of Pakistan extend sincere condolences to the families of Chinese and Pakistani workers who lost their lives in the incident. We also pray for quick recovery of the injured,” said the FO.
Soon after the incident, a high-level delegation of the K-P government reached Kohistan on the instructions of Chief Minister Mehmood Khan.
The delegation includes Special Assistant to Chief Minister K-P for Science and Information Technology Kamran Bangash, chief secretary and K-P inspector-general of police. SACM Bangash said the media would be apprised of the situation after the matter is investigated.
Beijing asks Pakistan to 'thoroughly investigate' the incident
Beijing has asked Pakistan to thoroughly investigate the incident, China's foreign ministry said.
Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, in a news briefing, said China had asked Pakistan to protect the safety of Chinese personnel, institutions and projects.
"The Chinese Embassy in Pakistan launched the emergency plan immediately, contacted the Pakistani military, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Interior and other relevant parties, and requested Pakistan to carry out rescue and treatment in the first place, and strengthen security protection for the Chinese citizens, institutions and projects in Pakistan, and investigate the incident thoroughly," said the statement from the Chinese Embassy.
"The Chinese Embassy in Pakistan reminds Chinese citizens, enterprises, and projects in Pakistan to stay on alert, pay close attention to the local security situation, strengthen security protection, take strict precautions, and stop going out unless necessary."
Chinese engineers and Pakistani construction workers have been working on the Dasu hydroelectric project and several others for several years in the region.
Earlier in June, at least 17 people including 14 members of a family were killed after a passenger van plunged into a river in Upper Kohistan district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
The van was en route to Rawalpindi from Chilas city of Gilgit-Baltistan when the accident happened.
The incident occurred after the driver lost control of the vehicle that was carrying 18 people while taking a sharp turn. The passenger van then veered off into the Indus River in the Pani Bagh area of Upper Kohistan, and got submerged immediately, said the official.