At least 12 people were killed after a bus carrying Chinese engineers in northern Pakistan fell into a ditch and exploded, according to local police.
Helicopters were flying to the region to bring the injured to a major city. The Chinese workers were heading to the site of Dasu Dam, a large hydroelectric gravity dam currently under construction on the Indus River.
Pakistani foreign ministry in a statement said the bus fell into the ravine following a mechanical failure resulting in leakage of gas that caused a blast.
“According to preliminary reports, nine Chinese nationals and three Pakistanis lost their lives. Chinese workers and accompanying Pakistani staff were proceeding to their work place for an ongoing project,” said the statement.
“The local authorities are providing all possible assistance to the injured.”
China condemned the blast and asked Pakistan to thoroughly investigate the attack, the Chinese foreign ministry said.
Beijing asked Pakistan to protect the safety of Chinese personnel, institutions and projects, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in a news briefing.
In its statement, the Pakistani foreign ministry said it “is closely in contact with the Chinese Embassy for coordination and facilitation”.
“Pakistan and China are close friends and iron-brothers,” said the statement.
“Pakistan attaches great importance to safety and security of Chinese nationals, projects and institutions 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 sea port in southern Pakistan.
Chinese engineers along with Pakistani construction workers have been working on the Dasu hydroelectric and other projects for several years in the region where the blast took place.