North Korea Floods Kill 88, Displace Thousands

Severe storms in North Korea have pushed the death toll from bad weather this month up to at least 119, state media reported Wednesday, as an aid group said those affected urgently needed help.

Pyongyang’s official news agency said 31 people were killed by landslides and lightning during the storms on Sunday and Monday, with a further 16 missing, after many were killed earlier in July during a week of floods.

More than 21,000 people were left homeless by the latest storms, bringing the total number of those made homeless by recent bad weather to around 84,000, according to state media.

Coal mines in the Kaechon and Tokchon areas were also hit by “devastating” floods which left dozens dead or injured, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said, without giving further details.

Tens of thousands of tonnes of coal and a lot of equipment was also washed away, it said.

KCNA reported at the weekend that a week-long flood left 88 dead and more than 63,000 homeless, as well as devastating vast swathes of farmland in a state that struggles to feed itself at the best of times.

Wednesday’s new death toll came as an aid group said North Koreans hit by the floods badly need drinking water, food and medical assistance.

A Red Cross team has visited the western provinces of South and North Pyongan to assess damage, said Francis Markus, a spokesman for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Beijing.

UN officials have also toured badly-hit regions to assess aid needs.

“In one community, about half of the houses were either destroyed or damaged… the drinking water system has been badly damaged (in some areas),” Markus told AFP.

Shortage of drinking water, difficulty in rebuilding destroyed homes and crop losses are the main concerns cited by residents, he said, adding it was “so difficult” for the injured or sick to get medical treatment in some areas.

The flooding represents a challenge for Kim Jong-Un, new leader of the nation which has grappled with severe food shortages since a famine in the 1990s killed hundreds of thousands.

Following an inspection visit last autumn, UN agencies estimated that three million people would need food aid this year even before the deluge.

Widespread deforestation, partly to clear land for crops, has made the impoverished nation increasingly prone to serious flooding which ends up washing away the harvest.

In February the United States reached a deal to offer the North 240,000 tonnes of food in return for a freeze on nuclear and missile tests.

But the plan was scrapped after Pyongyang’s failed rocket launch in April, seen by the US and its allies as an attempted ballistic missile test.

Source: BusinessWeek

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