Mon, Aug 20, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Bodies from North Korea recovered from river in South

AFP , SEOUL

South Korean officials said yesterday they had in the past week recovered at least 10 bodies, believed to be victims of devastating floods in North Korea, from a river that crosses the border.

The bodies -- one on Monday, five on Wednesday, three on Friday, one on Saturday -- were recovered from Imjin River which runs across the border, the South's Dongducheon fire station rescue team said.

"It is the first time that we picked up such a large number of drowned bodies in a week from Imjin River," Moon Sang-sik of the rescue team, said.

"They are believed to be North Korean. Military authorities are trying to check their identifications for possible repatriations," he said.

North Korea reported on Saturday an all-out campaign to help hundreds of thousands of people left homeless and without food after widespread flooding.

The official Korean Central News Agency report came shortly after the two Koreas announced the postponement of a landmark summit set for later this month till early October due to the deadly disaster.

Some 300,000 people were homeless, and 11 percent of the grain harvest -- equivalent to 450,000 tonnes -- was lost in a nation already struggling to feed its 23 million people, according to the agency.

But the reclusive state's media gave no death tolls.

Almost 300 people are dead or missing in the floods, according to an aid agency quoting official figures. Yonhap reported late on Friday that at least 221 people were dead and 80 more missing.

South Korea has offered to send emergency aid worth 7.1 billion won (US$7.5 million) to the flood victims, while the US Agency for International Development promised US$100,000 dollars to buy supplies.

South Korean Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung said yesterday North Korea agreed that the proposed aid be sent in by land from Thursday through Saturday.

UN agencies said on Friday that half of North Korea's main health centers have been submerged by floods and warned that the situation could deteriorate unless aid arrives rapidly.

North Korea faced a food shortfall this year of one million tonnes, or 20 percent of its needs, even before the floods hit. It suffered a famine in the mid to late 1990s which killed hundreds of thousands.

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