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Snowballing Damage… Some Claim 1,000 Death Tolls

Posted April. 25, 2004 21:40,   


In Dandong, China, which borders Sinuiju, it is believed that North Korea is struggling to control Yongcheon station’s great explosion. Rumors that there may be many more casualties than North Korean authorities’ have announced continue to circulate.

▽ Damage will be increased

“My friend’s family of four was killed. All of the houses around the station collapsed, and although soldiers are rescuing people, it is not successful due to the lack of equipment. They even mobilized a physician from a Chinese school.”

One Chinese emigrant living in North Korea, who has a relation in Yongcheon, stated, “The local people say that even North Korean authorities cannot grasp the scale of damage. The number of casualties will be much higher than the official announcement.”

There is a claim that the total number dead could be increased by 1,000, when taking into account students who mobilized for the welcoming of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, up to 500 station workers, the missing and the seriously wounded, and the 1,500 students whose elementary school was destroyed by the explosion.

▽ Thorough control of the site

According to correspondents on the scene, soldiers are intercepting the entrance and exit to Yongcheon with barricades from Nakwon, 7 to 8 kilometers north of Ryongcheon.

One correspondent said, “Because soldiers constructing army buildings around the explosion site were greatly damaged, they moved the injured to Kwaksan airport 40 kilometers away from the site using two helicopters.”

Another correspondent said, “The nitric acid ammonium which caused the huge accident is material used in a nearby Nakwon machinery factory. All staff from the factory was detained in relation to the accident.”

One Dandong resident said, “Due to the accident, the anniversary of the founding of the Choseon People’s Army was cancelled. North Korean customers who ordered fruits and presents for the event have been informed of the cancellation.”

▽ The injured might not be sent to China

Even though Chinese authorities issued an urgent preparation notice to the first, second and third hospitals in the city center, as well as 230th Army hospital for the treatment of patients, they were not asked for their assistance until April 25. Those hospitals are continuing to diagnose and treat general patients as usual and medical staff is returning home as usual when not on duty.

An announcement posted in front of the emergency room in the second hospital says, “Report rapidly to authorities when North Korean patients are sent.” Hospital staff anticipated that, “Considering the North Korean tendency of reluctance to open situations to the outside, it is likely they will not to move the injured to China.”

One correspondent claimed, “Two emergency cars drove from China to North Korea on April 23, and one of them came back to China carrying four patients whose entire bodies were bandaged and moved to another place, not Dandong, around 3: 47 a.m. on April 24.” This claim has not yet been confirmed.

Yoo-Seong Hwang yshwang@donga.com