Earlier last month, just after North Korea’s sixth nuclear test, there were reports of a small earthquake that could have killed many people near the nuclear test base.
According to Japanese broadcaster Asahi TV today, some 200 people indeed died when a tunnel near the test site collapsed on that day, citing unnamed sources familiar with the situation.
Mr Lee Eugene, a spokeswoman at South Korea's unification ministry, said: "We are aware of the report but do not know anything about it."
Asahi TV claims that some 100 workers at the Punggye-ri nuclear site were killed in the initial collapse, which took place around September 10th.
Afterwards, the North Korean government tried to rescue some of those hurt in the first tunnel collapse but was hit by an aftershock that collapsed on top of the emergency personnel. In total more than 200 people are reportedly dead.
Furthermore, as the test site is compromised, hazardous radioactive material left over from the blast may seep out into the ground, which could possibly cause an international incident with China.
Should the debris reach the Chinese mainland, the communist government in Beijing had previously explained that this would be interpreted as an attack on their homeland.
A nuclear weapons researcher, Mr Wang Naiyan, who is also chair of the China Nuclear Society, said this could indeed spark a major environmental disaster: “We call it ‘taking the roof off. If the mountain collapses and the hole is exposed, it will let out many bad things. A 100 kiloton bomb is a relatively large bomb. The North Korean government should stop the tests as they pose a huge threat not only to North Korea but to other countries, especially China.”
This latest report could explain why North Korea has stopped conducting further nuclear tests since half of September 2017.