At least nine Chinese nationals were killed in Pakistan on Wednesday when their bus fell into a ravine after an explosion, officials said. Two Pakistani paramilitary soldiers and one Pakistani laborer were also killed, local officials said, and 41 others were wounded. At least some of the Chinese passengers were engineers working at a hydroelectric project in Dasu, an area in the country’s rural northwest.
The exact cause of the explosion was not immediately clear. In a statement, Pakistan’s foreign affairs ministry said the bus had fallen into the ravine “after a mechanical failure resulting in leakage of gas that caused a blast.” It said an investigation was underway.
China’s embassy and a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs initially described the explosion as a bomb attack but later modified their statements to leave open the possibility of an accident. The embassy’s statement called for a thorough investigation and warned Chinese citizens in Pakistan to be vigilant and to go outside only if necessary.
The Dasu Hydropower Project is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a global effort to invest in infrastructure that is even greater in scope than the Marshall Plan, the United States’ program to rebuild Europe after World War II. One Chinese company involved in the project, China Gezhouba Group, could not be reached for comment.
A spokesman for another one, China Gansu International Corporation for Economic and Technical Cooperation, said that he had no details about what happened in Dasu.
Pakistan has a complex relationship with China, which has pumped billions of dollars into the country’s infrastructure projects.
In April, a suicide bomber struck the parking lot of a luxury hotel in southwestern Pakistan, killing at least four people.
A Chinese delegation that included the country’s ambassador to Pakistan had been staying at the hotel but were not there at the time of the attack.