When foreign aid workers from Pyongyang arrived on Saturday, they described large parts of Ryongchon as "obliterated." The train station in the center of town had collapsed, as had other buildings, including a nearby school. Those in the immediate vicinity "looked as if a fireball had gone through," said John Sparrow, a Beijing spokesman for the Red Cross, adding that "what was there isn't there anymore." He said a visiting Red Cross official had described "scorched" and damaged buildings radiating for four kilometers in all directions from the station. Rescue operations had apparently ended. Xinhua, quoting the North Korean in charge of the rescue efforts, Jang Song-gun, said the disaster occurred because an electrical pole was "knocked down after an oil tanker collided with two carriages loaded with ammonium nitrate."
Despite the devastation, trains on the single rail line between Beijing and Pyongyang, which passes through Ryongchon, continued to run. On future trips to China, though, Kim might consider taking a plane.