In the wake of North Korea’s claim that it had successfully tested its first hydrogen bomb on Jan. 6, residents of the province next to the nuclear test site in North Hamgyong province have expressed concern about the possibility of resulting man-made and natural disasters, sources inside the country said.
Residents of Yanggang province in the northern part of the country near North Korea's border with China felt vibrations as if an earthquake had occurred on the day of the test, which foreign monitors said registered 5.1 on the Richter scale, said a source from the region, who declined to be named.
“Workers did not feel the shaking while working outside, [but] people working inside homes or offices certainly recognized the vibrations,” he told RFA's Korean service.
What appeared to be an earthquake caused a commotion in Hyesan city in the northern part of the province, prompting residents of poorly constructed apartment buildings in Hyesan-dong and Hei Myung-dong to evacuate their neighborhoods, the source said.
The apartment buildings in Hei Myung-dong were built last year along a road across from statues of former leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Korean Workers Party, he said.
But people were doubtful of their quality because they were very hastily and believed to be poorly constructed with substandard materials, he said.
“The apartment buildings next to the Heisan department store were originally three stories tall, but they had cracks in them due to the Great Tangshan earthquake in China,” the source said, referring to the 1976 tremor near Tangshan in northern China’s Hebei province, which killed hundreds of thousands of people.
Under the guise of urban modernization, the apartments were extended to five stories, but were known to have a high risk of collapsing, he said.
Not only are the province’s residents fearful of building collapses in the wake of the alleged hydrogen bomb test, but they also are worried about a volcanic eruption on Mt. Baekdu (Changbai in Chinese) which lies on the border between North Korea and China.
Yanggang province residents fear a volcanic eruption, because a rumor has spread that the water in the crater lake atop Mt. Baekdu and in the three lakes of Samjiyon county was sloshing severely after the Jan. 6 explosion, Daehongdan-gun told RFA.
The possibility of the Mt. Baekdu volcano erupting was previously raised after sulfuric steam rose from the lakes in Samjiyon after North Korea completed a nuclear test in February 2012, the year that current leader Kim Jung Un took power, he said.
“At that time, Kim Jung Un evacuated residents for about a week under the guise of training for nuclear war, [and] now, residents in Yanggang province are feeling anxious that Mt. Baekdu might really erupt,” he said.
Reported by Sunghui Moon for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Ahreum Jung. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.