SEOUL -- In the first inter-Korean cargo flight, South Korea's Red Cross will transport blankets, medicine, and other aid to North Korea today to help the communist nation cope with a devastating train explosion.
The relief flight will be in addition to $25 million in building materials, food, and other goods Seoul plans to start shipping next week to Ryongchon, the town where the blast killed 161 people and destroyed thousands of homes.
A South Korean ship loaded with $1 million worth of instant noodles, blankets, and bottled water arrived in a Northern port yesterday after a daylong voyage.
South Korea has been quick to respond to the North's request for help after the April 22 tragedy, although Pyongyang has rejected Seoul's offer to truck supplies across their heavily fortified border, seriously slowing the transport of emergency supplies.
The North also refused to let South Korean doctors go to the area, where thousands of homeless families have been living in tents without adequate sanitation or water.
A Korean Air cargo plane will fly into the North Korean capital of Pyongyang today with about $470,000 worth of blankets, noodles, drinks, and medicine, South Korea's Red Cross said yesterday.
South Korean passenger planes have occasionally been allowed to fly to the communist country, but this will be the first South Korean cargo plane to travel to the North.
As the campaign for international aid gained speed, South Korea accepted the North's requests yesterday for 50,000 tons of cement; 10,000 tons of food; 10 bulldozers; 10 steam shovels; 500 tons of diesel oil; 500 tons of gasoline; 1,500 sets of school desks and chairs; 50 blackboards; 10,000 tons of food; and 50 television sets.
Most of the aid will go through China's Dandong port on the North Korean border before May 15, as requested by Pyongyang, Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun said yesterday.
Meanwhile, a pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan reported that a boy was rescued four days after the blast. He was buried his primary school under broken tiles and gravel.
"I am hungry," the boy said as he was pulled out, the People's Korea reported.
Nearly 400 victims of the explosion remained hospitalized -- many of them children.
A World Health Organization team visited four hospitals in the area four days ago and said "an estimated two-thirds of the injured they saw are children," UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said in New York.
Russia, the United States, China, Australia, Germany, and Japan also have offered aid.