Did Bungled Rescue Lead to Greater Loss?

Negligence
in the aftermath of last week’s collapse of a Pyongyang apartment block may
have resulted in many additional deaths, a Daily NK source has alleged. The
source from the North Korean capital asserts that officials failed to deploy
the necessary rescue equipment despite repeated calls for assistance.

The source
told Daily NK on the 23rd, “During the day on May 13th, there was a huge bang
and then the new apartment block in Pyeongcheon started to collapse. People on
the first and second floors were able to get out in time and were rescued, but
the remaining 80+ households almost all died.”

“Some
people who had managed to escape then used cell phones to let the Ministry of
People’s Security and local administrative office know what had happened, but
barely a handful of cadres came when they heard the news,” the source said,
alleging, “There was no proper rescue mission to speak of; they managed to pull
out a few who had been pinned under the debris, that was all.”

Moreover,
“They didn’t use any equipment in the rescue work, just mobilized people. That
must have served to exacerbate the death toll. It wasn’t until three days later
that an excavator was brought in from another construction site, even though
that is more or less essential for this kind of thing. Of course, by then not
one person was left alive.”

According
to the source, many military and Party cadres occupied the apartment block in
Ansan No.1 neighborhood of Pyeongcheon District, as first priority for new-build
homes tends to go to senior elites. It is believed that most of the men were at
their workplaces at the time of collapse, meaning that the victims tended to be
women, children, and the elderly.

In relation
to the public apology by Minister of People’s Security Choe Pu Il, the source
explained, “They had no choice but to apologize, because news of how poorly the
accident had been dealt with was already spreading. People don’t say it out
loud, but they are disappointed [in Kim Jong Eun] because of it.”

Meanwhile,
the authorities are believed to be in the process of questioning
representatives from the military unit that was responsible for the
construction project.

“It fell
under the 7th Bureau of the Ministry of People’s Armed Forces,” the source said.
“They are saying that full responsibility for the deaths is with them, and are
doing a thorough investigation; but they are just the ones with working-level
responsibility.” The 7th Bureau is the department of the Ministry that manages
state facilities and construction. It was the department in charge of state
plans to build 100,000 homes in the capital, a project that began in the
lead-up to the April 15th, 2012 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung.

“They are
pressing them over the practice of siphoning off materials like cement and iron
bars for reinforcing concrete,” the source explained. “It appears that the
[military] cadres who took bribes during housing distribution won’t be able to
avoid going to prison camp.”

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