At Least 400 Feared Dead in Pyongyang Apartment Collapse

The death toll from the high-rise apartment collapse in Pyongyang on May 13 stands at more than 400, sources said Thursday.

Authorities are clearing debris from the site of the building collapse and have placed a camouflage net over the ruin in order to prevent exposure to satellite photos.

One source familiar said, "There is talk that around 400 to 490 people were killed in the accident. The building collapsed around 5 to 6 p.m. so many kids had come home from school by then, and there were many women and elderly people as well."

The high-rise apartment that collapsed had yet to be completed, but residents had already started moving in around late November since only some interior jobs were left to be finished. Around 92 households were living in the building when it collapsed.

They apparently included members of North Korea's State Security Department and Workers Party officials as well as members of the commercial elite who had apparently paid more than US$30,000 each.

Another source said, "North Korean officials were quick to apologize after the accident because most of the residents were key officials protecting [North Korean leader] Kim Jong-un."

The state-run Rodong Shinmun daily ran a photo of a high-ranking official bowing to residents, but the scene of the shot was another apartment close to the building that collapsed.

"Authorities staged the shot by having residents gather in front of a pink building nearby that was standing perfectly tall," a source said.

A Unification Ministry official here said this shows how keen the regime is not to show the scene of the actual accident.

The regime started a massive redevelopment drive for downtown Pyongyang in June 2011.

englishnews@chosun.com / May 23, 2014 12:11 KST