World

200 killed after North Korea nuclear test tunnel collapse

TOKYO More than 200 people are feared to have died when a tunnel caved in at North Korea's nuclear test site after its latest detonation, a Japanese news report said yesterday.

A tunnel collapsed in Punggye-ri in early September, days after North Korea conducted its sixth and largest underground nuclear test on Sept 3, TV Asahi said, quoting unnamed North Korean sources.

Some 100 workers were involved in an initial collapse. Another cave-in occurred during rescue operations, leaving at least 200 people feared dead in total, the Japanese broadcaster said.

The accident was triggered by the test, TV Asahi added.

Experts have warned that the underground tests could cause the mountain to collapse and leak radiation into the atmosphere near China's border.

The latest test triggered landslides in the detonation area and beyond, according to satellite pictures taken the day after.

The images published by the 38 North website showed changes in the surface at Punggye-ri, the North's only known nuclear test site, where the ground had been lifted into the air by the tremors.

Small landslides followed the course of stream beds.

The blast caused a 6.3-magnitude earthquake, according to the US Geological Survey, followed a few minutes later by another with a magnitude of 4.1.

It is unusual for North Korea to acknowledge any major accident, especially anything that involves its nuclear programme.

Miss Lee Eugene, a spokesman at South Korea's Ministry of Unification, said: "We are aware of the report but do not know anything about it."

- AFP

South KoreaNorth KoreaJapan