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Pyongyang building collapse leaves many casualties

North Korea Releases Rare Statement On Building Collapse

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - North Korean officials offered a rare public apology for the collapse of an apartment building under construction in Pyongyang, which a South Korean official said was believed to have caused considerable casualties that could mean hundreds might have died.

The word of the collapse in the secretive nation's capital was reported Sunday morning by the North's official Korean Central News Agency, which gave no death toll but said that the accident was "serious" and upset North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un.

The report said it occurred in the capital's Phyongchon district on Tuesday "as the construction of an apartment house was not done properly and officials supervised and controlled it in an irresponsible manner."

In Seoul, a South Korean government official speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information said the 23-story apartment building that collapsed was presumed to have housed 92 families.

That could mean the casualties could be in the hundreds because a typical North Korean family has four members. However, it was not clear that all the residents were inside at the time of the collapse, or that four people lived in each apartment.

It is not unusual for people to start living in apartments before the construction is complete.

The official said he did not have any figure for the actual death toll.

According to the KCNA report, the rescue operation ended Saturday and officials apologized to bereaved families and district residents.

On the streets of Pyongyang on Sunday, residents expressed outrage over the incident.

"This accident happened because they broke the rules and methods of construction," resident Pak Chol told The Associated Press. "After this accident, we must make sure that this kind of terrible accident never happens again, by sticking to the proper method of building."

Another resident, Hong Nam Hyok, said that "everyone in Pyongyang is now sharing the sorrow of the victims and the bereaved families."

The KCNA report cited one official as saying Kim Jong Un "sat up all night, feeling painful after being told about the accident."

North Korea's highly controlled state media rarely report news that might be considered negative, and an admission of fault by the government is unusual.

The country regularly blames South Korea for starting the 1950-53 Korean War, although outside historians say that the North attacked first. North Korea also denies responsibility for an attack on a South Korean warship that killed 46 people in 2010, despite a South Korean-led international investigation that blamed a Pyongyang torpedo.

Sometimes, however, the country owns up to failures. Many were surprised when the North admitted in 2012 that a high-profile rocket launch fizzled soon after takeoff - an acknowledgement that followed Pyongyang's claiming of success for other such launches that foreign governments said had been failures.

The building collapse came at a time when the South Korean government has received near daily criticism from its citizens as well as regular bashing by North Korean media for its handling of last month's ferry sinking that left more than 300 people dead or missing.

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petpetdon May 18 2014 at 4:23 PM

Millions of dollars spent on building missiles. None spent on the the safety of the people. Sounds like the USA. BILLIONS spent on other countries, none spent on the infrastructure of the country.

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wizardsking May 18 2014 at 5:10 PM

One person wants to dictate everything and hold on to power no matter what it causes or what collapses..................lost my train of though I was either thinking of Kim or Obama.

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7 replies
Kate May 18 2014 at 5:18 PM

I don't for a moment believe that Little Chubby Guy (as someone in comments once called him) was 'up all night' over this, unless it was to decide what spin to give it.

I'm sure the only reason the government issued a statement at all, is that if it happened in the capitol, they could hardly keep quiet about it-- the news would spread like wildfire.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
Meh... May 18 2014 at 4:20 PM

It's sad when issuing an apology is so rare that it is national news..... hint hint

Flag Reply +5 rate up
Escalonz May 18 2014 at 5:02 PM

So when will they ever issue an apology for all the North Koreans who have died from starvation?

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2 replies
mmwwil Escalonz May 18 2014 at 5:06 PM

When we issue an apology for all of the peopple that we have killed. Including my comrades.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
knoxwarner Escalonz May 18 2014 at 5:18 PM

Why, everyone knows the famines were caused by the traitorous Minister of Agriculture who sabotaged the entire national rice production with bad seedlings supplied to him by the sneaky imperialist Yankee bastards in hopes of weakening the country to facilitate a future invasion.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
Wizard May 18 2014 at 4:22 PM

Kim sat up all night really upset, yeah i'l bet he did uh huh.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
stengernc May 18 2014 at 12:48 PM

Lets see, less government regulations, more profits....starting to sound like what America will become under Republican leadership....all for me mentality.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
6 replies
tdiplaci May 18 2014 at 6:23 PM

It is a shame that the sick leader of Korea was not in the middle of the collapse inspecting the work.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
Marcie May 18 2014 at 4:32 PM

That's what happens when the only thing that matters is cost saving. Americans better get used to it, too. All the garbage we buy from China....including building materials, how do you think they can do it so cheap? You'll find out when your house collapses on you.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
Greg May 18 2014 at 2:11 PM

Next comes the wave of executions!

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
Nana & Popie Greg May 18 2014 at 3:54 PM

No kidding just like China does. We all know that these two countries a "bed fellows".

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
knoxwarner Nana & Popie May 18 2014 at 4:19 PM

They rip each other off regularly. NK's only value to China is as a physical, geographic buffer zone between it and an invasion from South Korea. Today's weapons makes such a scenario extremely unlikely, so China is stuck with the neighbor that has rusty vehicles up on blocks in a front yard littered with shopping carts. If that wasn't bad enough, it's constantly threatening to attack somebody, thereby inviting military attention to itself and to China.

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