700 North Koreans Killed in Train Collision: Report

Korea Times

Nearly 700 North Koreans, including 270 soldiers, were killed in April when two trains collided in the isolated communist country, an Internet news provider reported on Tuesday.

The accident took place in Kowon, South Hamgyong Province, when a freight train collided head-on with a six-car passenger train, the Seoul-based Daily NK said, quoting a North Korean railway official in Chongjin, the administrative seat of the province.

Most railways in North Korea have a single track, which forces all freight trains to wait at the closest station for passenger trains to pass by.

That rule was not observed in Kowon, allowing the two trains to run on the same track and collide head-on, the Daily NK quoted the North Korean railway official as saying.

It said one passenger car carried army conscripts and another carried soldiers who were just discharged from active duty, while four other cars carried civilian passengers.

Daily NK

The Train collision in April which caused the death of hundreds of soliders originated from chronic problems in North Korea, such as abnormalities in communication and lack of electricity.

It also has been revealed that 270 soldiers and 400 passengers died of the accident.

An official working at locomotive office at the railroad department at Namyang under Department of Railways in Chongjin said in a phone conversation with a reporter at DailyNK on the 4th, that “A delayed departure of a freight train from Kowon station to Buraesan station collided with a passenger train, which caused the accident”.

North Korean railways only have single railroad tracks; all the freight trains must wait at the closest station for the passenger train coming toward them to pass by first. However, the operation of communication between Kowon station and Buraesan station was abnormal, which caused the accident.

The official said, “According to what I heard from the Department of Railways at Chongjin, the passenger train involved in the collision had six passenger cars. Soldiers discharged were in one car, enrolled soldiers were in another car, and the passengers were in four cars”.

He also said, “Since it was a head-on collision, many soldiers in the cars right behind the locomotive died. I heard that 270 soldiers and approximately 400 passengers died”.

He added, “Because of lack of emergency aids and inefficiency in the delivery of victims to the hospital, more people lost their lives. As far as I know, the officials at the railroad office in Kowon lost their jobs and were imprisoned because of the inefficient response”.

Mr. Choi Gil Yong who is in charge of maintenance of the trains under Hoeryong railway office met with DailyNK at Sanhe in China, and conjectured that the cause of the accident was electricity.

Mr. Choi said, “There is a problem with communication, but the delay of departure because of lack of electricity seems to be the main cause. There is a possibility that the train which departed from Kowon stopped because of lack of electricity, and the passenger train collided into it”.

Mr. Choi turned down flat the rumor about compensation, saying, “There are tens of big and small train accidents every year. It does not make sense for the country to compensate for the accident. It would only be possible when there is a special order from the government”.


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