Explosions in Hyesan kill nine, injure at least 30

No fire trucks appeared to deal with the resulting fires, which reportedly raged for one and a half hours

Nine North Koreans died and around 30 more were injured yesterday night in explosions caused by what appears to have been a gas leak at a house in Hyesan, Yanggang Province.

A source in the area told Daily NK today that gasoline stored in a house in the city’s Tapsong District somehow ignited at around 6:10 PM yesterday. This led to the explosion of a liquid petroleum gas (LPG) cylinder at the house. LPG cylinders attached to other houses nearby also exploded (around 10 times), according to the source.

“One section of harmonica houses [row houses] were completely destroyed by the explosion,” the source said, adding, “There’s absolutely nothing of value left inside them.”

Six people immediately died in the explosions, while around another 30 people suffered from varying degrees of burns. They were taken to a provincial hospital for treatment and another three people reportedly died at the hospital this morning.

Houses nearby where the first explosion occurred also caught on fire, the source said, noting that the fires were put out by local residents. No fire trucks appeared to deal with the fires, which were reportedly put out one and a half hours after they had started.

The authorities have reportedly made clear there will be no “compensation” to those impacted by the explosions because the incident was due to “carelessness.”

Local district authorities, meanwhile, have said they will supply rice, blankets, clothes and other necessities to those affected by the incident. The costs for these necessities, however, will reportedly be levied on local citizens.

The authorities inquired whether there were any households that have safely rescued portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il – presumably as part of efforts to use the incident as an opportunity to promote loyalty toward the regime, the source said.

The municipal Ministry of Social Security office has reportedly arrested the occupant of the house, who is apparently the commander of a sentry post on the Sino-North Korean border, where the fire began and is currently investigating what happened.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

Read in Korean

Lee Sang Yong is editor-in-chief of Daily NK and previously spent a number of years working as one of the publication’s foreign correspondents in China. He can be reached at dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.