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N. Korea Refuses Aid Through DMZ - 2004-04-27


The U.N. World Food Program is appealing for emergency aid for victims of Thursday's massive railroad blast in North Korea. Aid workers are describing a desperate scene at hospitals where the injured are receiving treatment.

The World Food Program's regional director for Asia, Tony Banbury, says his agency is using existing food stocks - intended for children, pregnant women, and the elderly - to feed the scores of people who are hospitalized following Thursday's blast. "We intend to launch a flash appeal for emergency food for North Korea, for the victims of the blast," says Mr. Banbury. "We will ask for a total of about a thousand tons."

Mr. Banbury - just back from the scene of the blast in Ryongchon - told reporters in Beijing Tuesday much of what is being delivered now is being consumed as soon as it arrives.

The Red Cross Monday also appealed for donations to purchase food, clothing, and fuel for what officials estimate are 10,000 people who are homeless after the explosion. Between 150 and 161 people were killed and more than 1,300 injured Thursday when fuel and chemicals blew up on board trains in the town of Ryongchon near the Chinese border.

Relief workers say hospitals are stretched beyond capacity. Mr. Banbury says doctors have no supplies or equipment to treat the victims - many of whom suffered deep facial wounds caused by dirt, glass, and other flying debris. "There seemed to be very little additional care that had been given, other than bandages and ointment," he says. "We probably saw about 50 patients, all told, I'd say, and from our recollection, only two of those had an IV drip solution in them."

North Korea's Communist government has appealed for aid, but has refused offers by South Korea to send donations by truck across the demilitarized zone that divides the two countries. Pyongyang has instead insisted the aid be sent by ship, a demand relief workers warn may cause deadly delays.

Officials from North and South Korea are continuing discussions in the Korean border city of Kaesong to work out differences on how to coordinate aid supplies and delivery.

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