According to Japanese media sources, at least 200 laborers were killed at the North Korean nuclear test site in Punggye-ri after a tunnel collapsed. The accident reportedly occurred while workers were constructing a new underground facility at the nuclear test site in northern North Korea.
The Japanese TV Asahi reported that the collapse was due to the weakening of the ground around the site after the North Korean authorities conducted a controversial sixth nuclear test. The deadly accident, in which up to 200 people allegedly died, was reported by multiple Japanese media sources, which quoted an anonymous source within North Korea.
However, there has been no official confirmation of the incident by Pyongyang.
The Japanese media reports claimed that earlier this month, about 100 workers who were excavating a tunnel at the site were trapped when the tunnel collapsed. A second batch of 100 workers was reportedly sent to rescue the trapped workers. While the effort to rescue the trapped workers was underway, a second collapse occurred. The second collapse reportedly brought the total number of the dead to 200, according to the Daily Mail.
Among the dead were the 100 men sent to rescue their colleagues, according to the Telegraph.
Some news outlets claimed that the collapse occurred on October 10, but South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said the “source” within North Korea was unable to confirm when the accident occurred.
The site at Punggye-ri, beneath Mount Mantap in the north of the country, serves as the North Korean regime’s main nuclear test site. Kim Jong-Un’s regime has conducted a total of six nuclear tests so far. The last five of the regime’s tests were conducted at the site. The last and most powerful of the tests was conducted in September.
The North Korean authorities claimed that the sixth test conducted on September 3 involved a hydrogen bomb. South Korean experts monitoring the site said the test set off an earthquake of about magnitude 6.1 on the Richter scale. They estimated the power of the weapon at about 280 kilotons.
The series of tests at the site reportedly caused extensive weakening of the ground around the site and led to the accident in which 200 people reportedly died. The tests triggered earthquakes which South Korean experts said indicated the site was weakening and at risk of collapsing if further tests were conducted.
South Korean seismologists reported that they detected underground tremors hours and days after the last test that could have been due to collapsing underground structures.
“There is a hollow space, which measures about 60 metres by 100 metres beneath Mount Matap. Should another nuclear test take place, there is a possibility [of a collapse].”
Satellite images taken after the test showed evidence of extensive damage at the site.
Before the alleged collapse earlier this month, U.S. experts had warned that further tests at the site could cause the facility to collapse. A study by John Hopkins’ US-Korea Institute warned that the last test caused “substantial damage to the existing tunnel network under Mount Mantap” and that the North Koreans would have to abandon the site.
South Korean expert Nam Jae-Chol, who heads the South Korean Meteorological Administration, which has been monitoring the site remotely, also warned that further tests at the site could cause underground structures to collapse and cause a radiation leak.
Chinese experts also issued warnings that further tests could lead to nuclear fallout with catastrophic consequences.
[Featured Image by Gerasimov Photos/Shutterstock]