April 23 (UPI) — Two North Korean charter buses carrying dozens of Chinese tourists have crashed, leaving 36 people dead, according to the Chinese government.
Beijing’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang confirmed Monday the accident took place Sunday evening in North Hwanghae Province.
“Chinese nationals, 32 in total, have died and an additional four North Koreans have died,” Lu said in a rare official acknowledgement of reports coming out of the Kim Jong Un regime.
The Chinese official added two Chinese citizens who were on the buses were critically injured, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
“We send our sincere condolences to our deceased compatriots and the North Korean nationals, and sincere sympathy to the survivors and the families of the deceased,” Lu said.
The buses were traveling together, carrying one group of tourists and their North Korean minders, according to South Korean television network MBC.
A Beijing-based source told MBC each bus was carrying an even number of tourists and minders.
One bus careened off a bridge and the second bus overturned, the source said.
China’s foreign ministry said the government has dispatched medical personnel to North Korea to “carry out aid relief and treatment duties” in the relatively isolated country.
South Korean media reported the buses were traveling on roads that were under construction ahead of the inter-Korea summit this Friday.
Chinese media reported the buses were trying to avert an oncoming North Korea military vehicle when the accident occurred.
Heavy rains added to road hazards as the buses were returning to Pyongyang, the capital, from the southern city of Kaesong, close to the border with the South.
About 90 percent of all tourists to North Korea are Chinese nationals.
North Korea has previously announced a goal to draw 1 million foreign tourists annually, according to MBC.