North Korea has apologised to bereaved families after an apartment building collapsed in Pyongyang last week, possibly killing hundreds, the official KCNA news agency said, a rare admission of fallibility from the reclusive state. It also said that the accident was “serious” and upset North Korea leader Kim Jong Un.
Pyongyang’s expression of “profound consolation and apology” was the first official news of the disaster, which happened in the Phyongchon district of the North Korean capital on Tuesday.
“The construction of an apartment house was not done properly and officials supervised and controlled it in an irresponsible manner,” said the statement from KCNA. It cited one official as saying Kim Jong Un “sat up all night, feeling painful after being told about the accident.”
On the streets of Pyongyang on Sunday, residents expressed outrage over the incident.
North Korea’s highly controlled state media rarely report news that might be considered negative, and an admission of fault by the government is unusual.
An official from South Korea’s unification ministry confirmed on Sunday that a 23-storey apartment building had collapsed in Pyongyang on Tuesday.
The official said the building was presumed to have held 92 households, or families, and that it was common for North Koreans to move into new buildings before construction was completed.
“Hundreds are presumed to be dead, assuming that each family has an average of four members,” he said. The KCNA statement said North Korean authorities put emergency measures into place to rescue people from the collapsed building.