A bus, carrying Chinese workers and Pakistanis, who were proceeding to their work place for an ongoing project in Khyber-Pakhunkhwa (K-P) plunged into a ravine on Wednesday morning, killing nine Chinese nationals and at least three accompanying Pakistani citizens.
Initially, the Foreign Office and the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad gave the death toll of 12, but later the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said that 13 people – nine Chinese nationals and four Pakistanis, including two Frontier Constabulary (FC) personnel – died, while 23 others were injured.
The Foreign Office in Islamabad said in a statement that the bus “plunged into a ravine after a mechanical failure, resulting in leakage of gas that caused a blast”. It said that investigations into the incident were under way, while local authorities were providing all possible assistance to the injured
The statement said that ministry was in close contact with the Chinese embassy for coordination and facilitation. The Foreign Office extended “sincere condolences to the families of Chinese and Pakistani workers who lost their lives in the incident” and “prayed for quick recovery of the injured”.
The Chinese embassy in Islamabad said that a Chinese company's shuttle bus, carrying working staff on the Dasu Hydropower Project in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province was hit by a blast at around 7 am while on its way to the construction site.
“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,” it said in a statement.
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The embassy statement also called for strengthening security protection for the Chinese citizens, institutions and the projects in Pakistan, and thorough investigation into the incident. “The Pakistani military has instantly organised rescue and dispatched helicopters to transfer the injured,” it added.
The embassy sent its condolences to the victims and sympathy for the injured, and assured it would do its best with Pakistan to properly deal with the aftermath. It reminded 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 Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian told a news briefing in Beijing that China had asked Pakistan to ensure the safety of Chinese personnel, institutions and projects. Lijian urged Pakistan to “severely punish the perpetrators”.
The Foreign Office in its statement said: “Pakistan and China are close friends and iron brothers. Pakistan attaches great importance to safety and security of Chinese nationals, projects and institutions in Pakistan.”
The incident was also discussed during a meeting between Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Dushanbe. Qureshi offered condolences on the tragic incident. He said that the investigation into the incident was under way.
Earlier reports said that the bus was ferrying workers of the Dasu dam project. According to area officials, the incident took place in the Upper Kohistan district of K-P, in which 13 people died, while multiple passengers were injured.
Speaking to Express News, Deputy Commissioner Arif Khan Yousafzai said that the bus was carrying more than 30 people at the time of the incident. He also gave the death toll of 12, saying that nine Chinese workers and three locals were among the dead.
“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,” Yousufzai added. The Kohistan district police officer said that the cause of the incident was being investigated.
The APP report said that the accident occurred in the remote Barfeen mountainous area of Upper Kohistan district. Quoting local officials, it said that the deceased included two FC personnel, the bus driver and a labourer.
The accident was caused due to some mechanical failure in the bus, which plunged into a deep ravine in Barfeen mountainous area. It caught fire after a cylinder explosion occurred due to gas leakage, the report said. It added that the injured had been shifted to the hospitals of Gilgit and Abbottabad.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan immediately sent a high-level team, including his Special Assistant for Information and Higher Education Kamran Bangash, Chief Secretary Dr Kazim Niaz and Inspector General of Police Moazam Jah to the site to oversee the relief activities.
(WITH INPUT FROM APP)
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