Word is reportedly seeping out of North Korea that a tunnel collapse in a mountain test facility following the country’s sixth nuclear test in early September has killed more than 200 people.
Japanese channel Asahi TV cites North Korean sources as saying that the deadly collapse took place in October during the construction of an underground tunnel at the Punggye-ri key nuke test facility at Mt. Mantap, which is about 80km from the Chinese border.
The geology of the test site was said to have been badly disturbed by the explosion of what’s believed to be a 100-kiloton hydrogen device said to be seven times more powerful than the A-bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
Asahi TV said about 100 workers were initially trapped underground during the cave-in. A group sent to rescue them was buried in another collapse, killing a total of about 200.
International seismologists have reported a series of small earthquakes at Mt. Mantap since the underground detonation on September 3.
If true, the ill-fated attempt to construct a new tunnel at the site hints that North Korean authorities are unwilling to abandon the site and disrupt their nuke weapons program.
38 North, a respected specialist website on North Korea, said in an analysis last month that the Mt. Mantap test site is unlikely to be abandoned. It noted that earth disturbances at the site are consistent with those that have taken place at other underground test sites outside Korea and are manageable.
Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Geology and Geophysics reportedly warned a North Korean delegation in Beijing late last month about an implosion at the Punggye-ri nuclear facility.