At least 32 Chinese nationals and four North Koreans have been killed in a traffic accident in North Korea, according to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
North Korea traffic accident kills 32 Chinese tourists
Two other Chinese people were seriously injured during the accident that took place in North Hwanghae province on Sunday night.
Quoting travel industry sources, North Korea monitoring site NK News reported that a tour bus was carrying a group of Chinese travel company staff from Beijing.
The road was undergoing renovation, and heavy rain and wind might have been a contributing factor to the fatal accident.
The number of deaths was only confirmed at 4pm on Monday. Chinese state television’s English-language channel tweeted earlier that a tour coach had fallen off a bridge, killing more than 30 people. But the tweet was later deleted.
Chinese diplomats rushed to the scene after being informed by North Korea.
A segment aired by Chinese state television CCTV shows a blue bus with its wheels in the air.
The road runs between Pyongyang and Kaesong, a popular route with tourists, says Simon Cockerell, general manager of Koryo Tours, a Beijing-based tourism agency specializing in arranging tours to North Korea.
He added that traffic accidents on this scale are uncommon in North Korea.
Given the sanctions imposed by the United Nations and the US against North Korea’s nuclear program, tourism remains an important income source for the country.
The Korea Maritime Institute, which is based in Busan, South Korea, estimates that the tourism industry generates an annual income of $44 million for North Korea.
Even though China's tourism authority stopped releasing the number of Chinese visitors to North Korea in 2013, it is estimated that Chinese tourists account for about 80% of international travelers to the country.