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DPRK confirms severe train blast
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-04-23 23:33

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Saturday admitted that there was "very serious" train blast in the Ryongchon Railway Station near the Chinese border on April 22, the official KCNA news agency said.

"An explosion occurred at Ryongchon Railway Station in North Phyongan Province on April 22 due to the electrical contact caused by carelessness during the shunting of wagons loaded with ammoniumnitrate fertilizer and tank wagons," KCNA said.

"The investigation conducted so far shows that the damage is very serious,"

The DPRK government also expresses appreciation for offers of international humanitarian assistance in devastating train explosion, the agency said.

Train blast in DPRK kills 54, injures 1,249

At least 54 people were killed and 1,249 others injured in Thursday's train blast in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) told the Xinhua News Agency on Friday.

Two Chinese people living at the site of the explosion in Ryongchon, North Pyong'an Province, were said to be among the dead, with one other seriously injured and at least 10 more injured in the blast, China's Foreign Ministry said on its website.

The train blast may have killed up to 150 people, according to a Pyongyang-based Irish aid worker quoted by Reuters.

"They (the DPRK authorities) have said that 150 people died in the explosion, including some school children... and over 1,000 people were injured," said Ann O'Mahony, the regional director of Concern.

The blast has also damaged or destroyed more than 8,000 houses. The Xinhua News Agency quoted a staff member of IFRC's Pyongyang Bureau as saying that a total of 1,850 houses were destroyed, 6,350 houses were partly damaged and 12 public buildings were damaged.

The damaged houses included more than 20 homes of Chinese people living in Ryongchon, three of which were destroyed, said Chinese Foreign Ministry.

The DPRK Foreign Ministry confirmed on Friday the train explosion was set off by gunpowder intended for use in an irrigation canal, according to a report from Pyongyang by Russia's Itar-Tass news agency.

Itar-Tass said a ministry official told diplomats and journalists in the DPRK capital that the disaster was caused by gunpowder igniting. The statement was the first admission of the accident by the DPRK authorities.

Before that, Reuters quoted the Irish aid worker in Pyongyang, Ann O'Mohony, who said: "What they (the government) have said is that two carriages of a train carrying dynamite... they were trying to disconnect the carriages and link them up to another train... they got caught in the overhead electric wiring.

"The dynamite exploded and that was the cause of the explosion," she said.

The IFRC Pyongyang Bureau said it has sent an assessment team to the scene to provide assistance to the victims.

A staff member of the IFRC Pyongyang Bureau also disclosed to Xinhua News Agency that a team from the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs will go to the scene on Saturday for rescue mission.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said it was paying close attention to

the situation. The ministry's department of Asian affairs and the Chinese Embassy in Pyongyang had launched emergency measures, ready to provide assistance to the victims.

The accident was first reported by the Yonhap news agency based in the Republic of Korea (ROK), who quoted ROK officials as saying that a large explosion occurred near a train station in the northwest of the DPRK on Thursday afternoon, killing or injuring up to 3,000 people.

Ryongchon, where the blast occurred, is about 50 kilometres from Dandong, a city in Northeast China's Liaoning Province.

The largest trade base with the DPRK, Dandong is on one side of Yalu River while the DPRK is on the other.

Many people in Dandong are doing business with the DPRK, an anonymous official in Dandong told China Daily. Statistics showed that more than 60 per cent of Sino-DPRK trade last year went through Dandong.

Hospitals in Dandong had been informed of the accident and ordered to get ready, according to Wang Lusha, a correspondent with Liaoning Daily in Dandong.

But no casualties had been sent to local hospitals by Friday afternoon, Wang said.

No people on Chinese territory have so far been reported as hurt in the blast.

And a bus packed with Chinese tourists who participated in a tour to the Sino-DPRK border arrived safely in Pyongyang at around 1:30 am on Friday, said the ministry.

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