Fuel pipeline explosion killed 110 N. Koreans: civic group

Sohn Suk-joo

An aging fuel pipeline exploded in northwestern North Korea about two weeks ago, killing more than 100 residents there, a South Korean civic group claimed Tuesday.

“On June 9, a fire broke out at a field in Sonchon County in North Pyongan Province and some 110 North Koreans were killed,” Good Friends, a Seoul-based Buddhist civic organization, said in an e-mail newsletter.

The alleged disaster came when a lot of people came out to collect gasoline from the fuel pipe, which burst and spilled fuel. “People collected gasoline in their vessels, pandemonium erupted, and a fire broke out,” the newsletter said.

The pipeline from a chemical company in North Pyongan Province to Taedong County in South Pyongan Province was being used to deliver 200 tons of gasoline across the fields and paddies, according to the letter.

“Gasoline costs about 2,500 won a kilogram in North Korea, so many people jockeyed for position for the purpose of making money and the fire started by accident,” it said, adding that the fire was not contained until the following day.

Seoul government and intelligence authorities said they were still trying to verify the claim.

“If such a big accident happened in Sonchon, the news might have spread outside already. I haven’t heard about it yet,” a Unification Ministry official said.


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