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At a glance: Korea, Democratic People's Republic of

Children back at school as community recovers from blast in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

Displaced primary school students are back to school, borrowing a total of fourteen classrooms from two secondary schools in Ryongchon that were not affected by the train explosion.

30 April 2004 -- Children from a primary school destroyed in the explosion at Ryongchon, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) have been able to start classes again in a nearby secondary school, according to UNICEF’s Representative in the country, Pierrette Vu Thi.

More than 160 people, including 76 children, died in the explosion caused by a train hitting a power line and 1,300 were injured, of whom 370 were hospitalized. The three-storey primary school, which had closed for lunch at midday, was badly damaged by the blast but most of the 1,000 pupils and their teachers had already left the building.

UNICEF provided emergency medical assistance after the explosion, and is now supplying children with books to support their return to school.  UNICEF has also provided therapeutic milk for children in a local kindergarten.

Two girls stand looking at the remains of their primary school, which was destroyed by the blast 10 minutes after class was dismissed for lunch.

“Little by little life is returning.  A lot of families have been relocated with relatives, food is being distributed as well as basic supplies - so little by little things are healing, “Vu Thi said.

After returning from the scene of the bomb blast, Vu Thi said that UNICEF is planning for the long-term needs of the local community.  “Of course in the mid-term and longer-term we have to think about restoring services and then also about reconstructing the infrastructure – this would include not only the primary school but also the nursery, the kindergarten and probably the city hospital which has suffered some damage also.”

The North Korea state news agency has estimated the damage at $350 million and said more than 30 public buildings and homes for 8,000 families were destroyed.




30 April 2004: UNICEF Representative Pierrette Vu Thi describes recovery efforts to UNICEF correspondent Francis Mead.

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