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Devastation at North Korea Train Blast Site - 2004-04-24


Foreign aid workers reaching the site of North Korea's deadly train explosion report a scene of utter devastation.

Representatives of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies say the railway station at Ryongchon and its vicinity were obliterated by Thursday's blast.

Arriving at the site on Saturday, the international aid workers described finding huge craters, twisted railways ties, flattened houses, and rubble everywhere.

North Korea's secretive government officially acknowledged the disaster on Saturday. Officials said 154 people were confirmed killed, including 76 schoolchildren. They said 13,00 people were injured.

North Korea's state news agency said the explosion was touched off by electrical contact caused by carelessness during the shunting of rail cars loaded with ammonium nitrate fertilizer.

China's state news agency reported that an oil tanker collided with rail cars containing the fertilizer, knocking down electricity lines, which triggered the blast.

North Korea formally requested international assistance Friday, leading to the dispatch of teams from the United Nations and the Red Cross. The aid workers delivered supplies including surgical materials, disinfectant and medicines.

North Korea has expressed appreciation for the humanitarian assistance coming from abroad.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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