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UN Disaster Team To Arrive in North Korea Saturday - 2004-04-24


A United Nations disaster response team is set to arrive in North Korea Saturday, to assess the damage from Thursday's catastrophic train explosion.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said North Korea formally requested international assistance on Friday, about 24 hours after the blast rocked the city of Ryongchon, near the Chinese border.

North Korean officials say several hundred people died, and several thousand more were injured in the explosion. The blast leveled the Ryongchon train station, a school, and apartments within a five-hundred metre radius.

North Korean officials said Friday the blast was caused by an electrical accident with a train carrying explosives.

The European Union on Friday approved 240,000 dollars in aid to help the communist state deal with the disaster. Other governments, including South Korea and China, said they were ready to provide humanitarian aid to North Korea.

A State Department spokesman in Washington (Richard Boucher) said the United States was evaluating the situation to see if there was a need or an opportunity for the United States to help.

Information for this report is provided by AP and AFP.

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