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Rail blast aid flows into DPRK
By Guo Nei (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-04-26 08:38

The international community is rallying to help the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) deal with the aftermath of a disastrous train accident.

Trucks carrying carpets, tents and various foods from China cross the China-DPRK Friendship Bridge at the border with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea April 25, 2004. This is the first batch of US$1 million in materials from China sent to aid victims of a disastrous train accident that has killed over 100 people and injured 1,300 last Thursday. China promised US$1.2 million in relief to the DPRK. [Xinhua]
The blasts occurred at 12:10 pm on Thursday because of sparks caused by an electrical pole knocked down during a collision between a railroad car containing oil and two carriages loaded with ammonium nitrate fertilizer during the shunting of wagons in Ryongchon, North Pyong'an Province, said Jang Song-gun, a senior official in charge of rescue efforts.

More than 160 people, including scores of students died and as many as 1,300 injured. The blasts also flattened a railway station and destroyed or damaged more than 8,000 houses.

"We have heard from our people in the DPRK that the death toll has risen to 161," said Niels Juel, the regional relief co-ordinator for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Beijing yesterday, according to agency reports.

The first delivery of aid from China, which includes 2,000 carpets, 300 tents, food and other relief supplies, arrived at Sinuiju, a border city of the DPRK yesterday afternoon.

The aid, the first shipment of relief from a foreign government, was carried by a convoy of 11 trucks.

The Chinese Government said on Saturday that it will provide 10 million yuan (US$1.2 million) of relief.

Another US$1 million in aid promised by the Republic of Korea Government will be shipped to the DPRK as early as tomorrow, Yonhap news agency said yesterday.

Trucks carrying carpets, tents and various foods from China cross the China-DPRK Friendship Bridge at the border with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea April 25. They represent the first batch of US$1 million materials from China being sent to aid victims of the train accident. China promised US$1.2 million of relief for the DPRK. [Xinhua]
Staff members of UN agencies and foreign diplomats in DPRK left Pyongyang on Saturday morning for the crash site in Ryongchon to investigate the massive explosion.

The DPRK had also agreed to accept UN aid and allowed representatives of its agencies to travel to the accident scene for the first time after two meetings earlier on Friday between the DPRK Government and Massod Hyder, the World Food Programme's representative in DPRK.

Representatives from the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF); the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and representatives from the diplomatic community will take part in the investigation.

The DPRK Government has expressed appreciation for offers of international humanitarian assistance because of the devastating train explosion, the agency said.

North Koreans clear up the rubble left from the explosion at the railway station in Ryongchon. International aid agencies said they would return to the site of a devastating North Korean train blast, which killed at least 161 people, in an urgent effort to help the victims.[AFP]
Chinese President Hu Jintao sent a message on Saturday to DPRK leader Kim Jong-il to express deep condolences over the train accident.

In a message, Hu said that he, on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese Government, extended heartfelt condolences to Kim and the relatives of the victims.

Hu said China was ready to provide the DPRK with necessary aid and expressed the hope that the DPRK people would soon recover from the disaster.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan also extended condolences on Friday.

Earlier on Friday, South Korea's acting President and Prime Minister Goh Kun expressed deepest sympathy over the disaster and ordered government officials to investigate ways of providing humanitarian aid to the DPRK.

Many international organizations and countries say they are ready to provide humanitarian aid to the DPRK.

A spokesman for the OCHA said in New York on Friday that the DPRK Government had sent a formal request to the United Nations for international assistance and the UN was to send an assessment team to the site.

The UNICEF, the WHO and the IFRC have already directed US$150,000 worth of medicines and medical supplies from existing programs to meet immediate needs.

On Friday, a spokesman for the US State Department told reporters that Washington would weigh information to see if there was need for US help.

British Secretary of State for International Development Hilary Benn told the BBC on Friday that Britain was "very happy to help."

Russian and Austrian foreign ministries said on Friday that they were ready to offer assistance to DPRK if help is requested.

A working group of the Chinese Embassy, led by Guan Huabing, charge d'affaires, on Saturday visited six overseas Chinese injured in the explosion.

The Chinese Embassy in the DPRK confirmed on Friday that two overseas Chinese were killed and 12 injured in the explosion. Two of the injured overseas Chinese were in serious conditions yesterday.

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