Hyesan's Medical School Catches Fire, Hyoeryoung's Building Collapses
March 21, 2011, fire started on 4th floor of Hyesan's Medical School resulting in large property loss
March 22, 2011, a building in Hyoeryoung Food District collapses, causing one fatality. The collapse is attributed to poor and fraudulent construction whereby construction workers siphoned cement powder for profit
Despite Kim Jong-Il’s considerable financial investment into Hyoeryoung Food District, workers seeking profit for personal gain outweighed Kim’s agenda
On March 25, a source in North Korea reported, "March 21 and March 22 have been marked with series of grave accidents in Yangkang and Hamkyoung Provinces in North Korea, causing loss of life and properties".
The source in Yangkang Province said that fire broke out in a medical school in Hyesan City causing significant damage and property loss, between 9pm to 10pm on March 22. The fire started on the 4th floor of the building where the Faculty of Clinical Sciences is located and quickly spread throughout the building. Fire was eventually extinguished, mostly by students and other civilians on site, while the fire department, which is under city’s security office jurisdiction, were not effective at all.
The reason they were unavailable for the duty was because the firefighters had sold off gasoline to run the fire trucks, for their own profit. N. Korean firefighters in general are reputed unreliable among civilians. Even when they are able to arrive on the scene, they do not perform their duties unless there is money to be earned.
While there are no reported injuries or deaths, property loss is significant. Damage to campus facilities and laboratories are quite extensive, explained the source.
On March 21, in Hyoeryoung Food District (see footnote) in the Hamkyoung Province, a building collapsed leaving one female worker dead and three people injured. The collapse is attributed to haphazardly constructed infrastructure, whereby workers siphoned off cement powder provided by the government, for personal profits, ensuing in an unstable and dangerous structure.
The construction workers, having sold off the cement powder, changed the mixture of cement and sand ratio from an acceptable 3:7 ratio to a dangerous 9 sand to 1 cement ratio. As cement mixture is reduced, the adhesive element for cement to bind to grains of sand and gravel is significantly weakened, leaving the structure prone to easily crack and give in. The building on the Hyoeryoung Food Disctrict collapsed because it simply could not support its own weight.
"Creating Hyoeryoung Food District was one of Kim Jong-il's more ambitious projects, to which he paid close attention and care. He appropriated large amount of public funding for this project, hiring plenty of laborers and paying for materials. Kim even visisted there in December of last year, on his inspection tour to Hyoeryoung," the source explained. “As you can see, the whole system of North Korean society is like a poorly constructed structure,” the source said. People are more interested in making money for themselves, to the extent that they would misuse materials that have been provided for public use. “The Hyoeryoung Food District exemplifies the North Korean society”, he adds, “fragile and unstable.”
Note1. Hyoeryoung Food District was created in October of 2010 as ordered by Kim Jong-Il. After his visit to his mother’s hometown, Hoeryoung, he ordered that the city be transformed into a place that exemplifies the rest of North Korea, characterized by food and clothings provision for the society. There are over 15 restaurants lining the street in Hyoeryoung with establishments specializing in Korean dishes such as “Jeon-Gol”(Korean stew), corn dishes, chicken giblets, rabbit meals, soft tofu soup, and black bean noodles.
Translation by Hoyeon Choi Supervised by Stella Cho
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