Hundreds may be dead in North Korean building collapse

Rare report of calamity may mean large death toll, experts say


North Korea has acknowledged the collapse of an apartment building under construction in Pyongyang. Experts say the accident could have killed hundreds, according to the Associated Press.

North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency reported the accident Sunday morning, saying it occurred in the capital's Phyongchon district Tuesday. The AP quotes a South Korean government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, saying that the 23-story apartment building was presumed to have housed 92 families. He said it is not unusual for people to start living in apartments before the construction is complete.

The state media rarely report news that might be considered negative. The report also comes as the South Korean government receives near daily criticism from North Korea for its handling of the ferry sinking that left more than 300 people dead or missing.

The New York Times reports that the rescue operation ended Saturday and North Korean news media on Sunday carried photos showing senior officials bowing in apology before what appeared to be a crowd at a construction site.

The Times states that although defectors from the North often report building accidents, it is rare for its government to report them. It said the last time North Korea admitted to a major accident was in 2004, when an explosion at a train station killed or injured hundreds of people.