Up to 1,300 Chinese workers at a gas-fired power station in northern Iraq have fled to safety before the continuing advance of Sunni insurgents, but some are understood to be awaiting transportation.Â
The workers are employed by the China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC) in Salah ad Din province, most of which has been overrun in the past fortnight. They were taken from the power station site near Samarra to Baghdad by buses protected by Iraqi government troops.Â
CMEC is abandoning its work on the $1.9bn scheme and repatriating its Chinese operatives, most of whom are employed by subcontractors. The company has told its workers they will leave for China in the next two days.
Once the chaos ends, we must return to Iraq as soon as possible and resume construction– Chinese worker
Samarra was attacked by rebel forces on 5 June. The Chinese workers were stranded at the construction site for two weeks before most of them headed to Baghdad on 20 June in five groups, one construction worker told China’s Caixin magazine.
He added that CMEC planned to resume work on the power plant once the situation: "The company has asked us to keep our cell phones on and be prepared for further notice. Once the chaos ends, we must return to Iraq as soon as possible and resume construction."
CMEC was awarded the 1.3MW plant in 2011. It was to have begun operations in 2016.
Meanwhile, the employees of two Chinese companies are staying in Iraq, despite a government warning that armed groups were kidnapping oil experts.
China National Petroleum has evacuated some employees from its al-Ahdab oil field, which is 180km from Baghdad, however most employees at its other three oil fields – Halfaya, Rumaila and West Qurna – along with those at China National Offshore Oil’s Maysan field, are staying, a source told Caixin.
Their British and American counterparts are leaving the country. Exxon Mobil has evacuated all of its employees from the West Qurna oil field, in which it and CNPC each hold a 25% stake. About half of BP’s employees in Rumaila have left.