Hundreds Believed Dead After N. Korean Train Explosion
The officials also told Ambassador David Slinn and other European envoys stationed in the North’s capital of Pyongyang that several thousand people were believed injured and many might still be trapped in collapsed buildings near the site of the explosion, a British Foreign Office spokesman in London told the Associated Press.
The explosion occurred Thursday when overhead electrical wires touched carriages carrying dynamite, an Irish aid worker in the country quoted North Korean officials as telling her.
“It says 150 people died, including some school children,” Anne O’Mahony, regional director of the Irish aid agency Concern, told Irish radio station RTE by telephone from Pyongyang.
The North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, had apparently passed through the station some nine hours before the blast as he returned home from a rare foreign visit to China, South Korean media reported Thursday.
The secretive Communist state, in a rare admission of need, called for international assistance on Friday to deal with the huge explosion.
The New York-based U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said a “formal request in response to the disaster” was received Friday afternoon, according to Reuters.
OCHA did not specify what assistance North Korea was requesting, but it said that 50 bodies had so far been recovered from Thursday’s blast in the town of Ryongchon and authorities were working to help at least 1,000 injured.
Slinn and other European Union ambassadors were to visit the disaster site Saturday, and that “will help us make an assessment of what might be needed,” the British Foreign Office told the AP.
North Korea’s official media has apparently made no mention of the blast, but the impoverished state has accepted other offers of help from international aid and relief agencies.