Nuclear contamination has been spreading around the test site in North Korea for over a decade, causing deformities in babies and creating a wasteland, according to witness accounts.
Eighty percent of trees in the area around the test site have died, the water is thought to be contaminated, and fish have died out, according to accounts from 21 defectors who used to live in Kilju.
There have been six nuclear tests at the site since 2006.
The drinking water in Kiliju comes down from Mt. Mantap in Punggye-ri, where the nuclear test site is located, and locals believe it is contaminated.
“I heard from a relative in Kilju that deformed babies were born in hospitals there,” one defector said, according to South Korean Chosun newspaper, which cites a report from the Research Association of Vision of North Korea.
After the communist nation’s sixth nuclear test in September, those living near the test site were forbidden from traveling to the capital Pyongyang.
Locals are not warned of the underground nuclear tests by officials, said one defector, who described the first two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.
“Only family members of soldiers were evacuated to underground shafts. Ordinary people were completely unaware of the tests.”
Chosun did not name any of the defectors in the report.
The test site location is primarily populated with soldiers and a few farmers who provide for the site itself. The locals are made to dig holes for the detonators said one witness, with devastating consequences.
“I personally saw corpses floating down the river with their limbs severed.”
The tests have created a wasteland in the local environment.
“If you plant trees in the mountains there, 80 percent of them die,” said defector who used to work as a forestry official in Kilju said. You can blame it on poor planting, but the number of trees that die is higher than in other mountains.”
“Trout and pine mushrooms were sent to senior party officials as gifts in the 1980s, but they disappeared after the first nuclear test in 2006,” another said.
Locals are forbidden from going to Pyongyang according to the reports, with officials trying to stifle news from the site area. One witness reported that people who boarded trains to the border with samples of soil, water, and leaves from Kilju county were arrested and sent to prison camps.
Another report, published on Nov. 6, said that the nuclear test site showed significant recent activity since the latest test.
Focus at #DPRK's Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site seems to shift. Sat imagery shows significant increase in activity around the West Portal and a seeming abandonment of the North Portal. https://t.co/ZzX7zM3Dmj
— 38 North (@38NorthNK) November 6, 2017
Using commercial satellite images North Korea monitoring organization 38 North identified “significant movement of equipment, mining carts, material and netting” in an area where little or no activity had been seen for the past several months.
The report said that satellite imagery did not provide any confirmation of recent reports of a tunnel collapse at the site.