Thursday, April 22, 2004


According to the New York Times (free registration required).
Hundreds of people were killed and injured when two trains loaded with fuel collided and exploded in a North Korean railroad station on Thursday, only hours after North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il, had passed by, according to reports in South Korean news media.

The cable television network YTN estimated that up to 3,000 people had been killed or injured in huge explosions that followed the collision of a train carrying gasoline and a second carrying liquefied petroleum gas.


Train wrecks with large numbers of fatalities are rare in North Korea, largely because trains creak slowly along rails that were first laid during the Japanese occupation, more than 60 years ago.

The explosion took place on North Korea's busiest rail line, on the route from Pyongyang to China. A lifeline for the impoverished nation, the route brings in food and fuel from China, the North's leading trading partner and a major source of aid.

The blast took place around noon, near the time when North Korea's state-controlled news media first informed its people that Mr. Kim, the nation's leader, had made a rare trip abroad to China. Mr. Kim, who leaves the country only in a specially armored rail car, a gift to his father by Stalin, had secretly passed through Ryongchon station shortly before dawn, nine hours before the blast. Mr. Kim, known as the "Dear Leader," does not travel by airplane.

UPDATE: The Marmot has more details and a map.

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