Freight train carrying cement derails en route to Samjiyon

North Korean freight train
North Korean freight train. Image: Daily NK

A freight train traveling from Pyongyang to Hyesan derailed near Popyong Station on August 17, Daily NK sources report.

“Four cars went off the tracks. Nobody was hurt, but cement from the train was strewn near the tracks,” a Ryanggang Province-based source told Daily NK.

The train departed Popyong Station in the early morning of August 17 and was heading toward Hyesan Station when the four cars derailed while the train was rounding a curve. There were no passengers in the cars or anyone near the tracks, and only a small amount of cement was lost.

“Teams were deployed to the accident site within one hour to fix the railway and put the cars back on the tracks,” said the source. “Only one of the four cars was carrying cement, so there wasn’t much damage done overall.”

The cement, however, was produced by the Sangwon Cement Cooperative Factory in Pyongyang and was being transported for use at the Samjiyon construction project. The source said that the importance of the cement for the project means there will be an investigation and punishment of those responsible for the accident.

Workers at Popyong Station, agencies responsible for railway maintenance and repair and other transport personnel are being investigated by the railway police. The train’s engineer said that the incident was caused by an issue with the track, while Popyong Station workers and railway agencies claimed that the engineer was to blame.

“The railway police and prosecutors’ office will investigate, so those involved in the accident are worried about being punished because the accident involves the Samjiyon project,” a separate source in Ryanggang Province reported.

There was also friction between local authorities and residents after locals were forced to help repair the tracks and clean up the fallen cement, he said.

Local residents complained that they had no idea why they were being asked to clean up an accident they were not involved in. Some residents were even stopped by railway authorities taking pieces of cement away for themselves.

“The northern railway between Pyongyang and Hyesan was constructed back in the 1980s, and was revamped in early 2011. But it’s not in good shape due to the annual rains,” he said. “The authorities need to completely revamp the tracks this time.”