Confusion surrounds the circumstances of an incident yesterday in which nine Chinese nationals employed in the construction of a large hydroelectric dam in northwestern Pakistan died, along with at least four Pakistani nationals, after an explosion involving a shuttle bus taking them to the site.
The Chinese embassy in Pakistan called it an “attack” and urged Pakistan to strengthen security for Chinese citizens in the country.
The Pakistani foreign ministry, however, said the bus plunged into a ravine after an explosion caused by “a mechanical failure resulting in leakage of gas”.
The incident is reported to have happened at around 7am yesterday while the bus of China Gezhouba Group carried staff to the Dasu Hydropower project, which the company is building in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.
Pakistan Water & Power Development Authority said the bus was carrying 41 people, 36 of them Chinese, and that 28 people had been injured.
Two of the Pakistani nationals who died were Frontier Corps personnel.
Battling harsh weather, army helicopters airlifted the injured to a military hospital in Gilgit, the authority said.
Investigations are underway.
The Chinese embassy told 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”.
The security of Chinese nationals building infrastructure in Pakistan is a sensitive issue with China heavily involved in completing China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a transformative transport-energy-industrial corridor stretching north-south from China’s western Xinjiang region to Gwadar on the Arabian Sea.
Image: Yesterday’s bus incident happened on the day Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, left, met with China’s foreign minister Wang Yi in Dushanbe, Tajikistan (pictured).