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U.S. aid for North Korea homeless

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The death toll in the North Korean train blast continues to rise.

People across the border in China heard the explosion.

North Korea makes a rare call for help.
• Gallery: N. Korea train blast
Interactive: Map of blast site
• Interactive:  Korean history

North Korea
United States
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Relief and Aid Organizations

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House will give the Red Cross $100,000 to help those left homeless in North Korea after last week's train explosion.

The announcement came after Secretary of State Colin Powell said earlier in the day that the United States is working with the United Nations and "will be making an offer of some financial assistance."

The administration said it is also "prepared to provide medical supplies, and equipment, as well as a team of specialists in emergency medicine to work with the North Koreans, if they are needed."

"We provide all humanitarian aid in disasters based on need without regard to political issues.

"As one of the largest providers of emergency food aid to North Korea, we have consistently demonstrated our concern for the people of that country," White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said in a written statement.

Earlier Monday, a South Korean Red Cross representative said South Korea had agreed to ship aid for the victims of the train explosion, following negotiations over how to complete the transaction.

The Pyongyang government had expressed reluctance to let South Korea transport the supplies overland through the DMZ into the north.

Instead, South Korea agreed to ship to the North Korean port of Nampo, on the western coast of the Korean peninsula.

At least 161 people were killed in the explosion last Thursday at the Ryongchon Railway Station, and at least 76 of the dead were children, said John Sparrow of the International Federation of the Red Cross, quoting North Korean Red Cross officials.

Richard Ragan of the World Food Program said he visited a hospital that was treating 370 people who were injured in the blast -- about 60 percent of them children.

The hospital facilities were very rudimentary and doctors faced shortages of medical supplies, Ragan said.

He added that some children were lying on cabinets because there were not enough beds.

Ragan said many of injuries were to eyes and faces.

"They need everything from the most basic antibiotics to technical help to deal with these complicated eye injuries," he said.

He said North Korea needs medicine, food, building supplies, cooking stoves and utensils.

Aid is coming quickly, Ragan said, in part because of the international aid efforts that were already in place in the impoverished country. He said he passed eight trucks carrying supplies from China.

The most pressing concern is the medical issue, because many of the injured -- including one woman with burns on 90 percent of her body -- would be difficult to treat under the best of circumstances, he said.

Highly secretive North Korea has issued a statement blaming the explosion on "carelessness."

"An explosion occurred at Ryongchon Railway Station in North Phyongan Province on April 22 due to the electrical contact caused by carelessness during the shunting of wagons loaded with ammonium nitrate fertilizer and tank wagons," said a report by the official Korean Central News Agency.

-- CNN White House Producer Jennifer Yuille, State Department Producer Elise Labott and Correspondent Sohn Jie-ae in Seoul contributed to this report

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