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Mercy Corps responds to North Korea tragedy

North Korea, June 4, 2004

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    Twisted train car wreckage reveals some of the damage from last week's massive explosion. Photo: Reuters courtesy of www.alertnet.org Photo:

Mercy Corps is mobilizing staff and resources to mount a quick response to the recent tragedy in Ryongchon, North Korea. Aid workers have been dispatched and truckloads of critical medical supplies has arrived at the devastated site.

On April 22, 2004, a series of massive train explosions in Ryongchon, a busy town near the Chinese border, resulted in overwhelming casualties and property damage. According to initial estimates, more than 160 people were killed and nearly 2,000 injured. Structural damage from the blast is widespread, destroying more than 1,800 dwellings and severely weakening over 6,800 more residences. As a result, more than 8,000 residents are now homeless.

Survivors of the explosions are suffering from critical burns, broken bones and respiratory problems, and are in desperate need of medical attention. A Mercy Corps shipment of medicines and medical supplies arrived near the disaster site on Monday morning. These critical provisions are being delivered to local hospitals and treatment centers for immediate use.

Some of the lifesaving supplies delivered by Mercy Corps were gauze bandages, disposable needles, penicillin and other antibiotics, cotton balls, intravenous (IV) fluids, and vitamin B1 and C injections for burns and trauma. Overall, Mercy Corps distributed 13.5 tons of essential medical provisions.

Mercy Corps is acting from Dandong, China, the closest border crossing to the train wreck site and additional support is being provided from its Beijing field office. The organization is working with the North Korean government to ensure a quick and effective response to the tragedy.

"Contact and cooperation are essential in mounting a quick response," said Mercy Corps Senior Vice-President and Co-Founder Ellsworth Culver. "Our staff is working with local authorities to make certain that aid and supplies get to those who need them most."

Mercy Corps has been committed to humanitarian programs in North Korea since 1996. The organization recently hosted discussions between a delegation of North Korean officials and representatives of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) at its Portland, Oregon headquarters.

Our staff and local partners are working to make sure that medical treatment and critical supplies are safely delivered to survivors of this horrific disaster.