Tue, Sep 13, 2016 - Page 5 News List

North Korean floods kill at least 133

AFP, SEOUL

Severe flooding in a North Korean border region has killed at least 133 people, with another 395 missing and thousands of homes swept away, the UN said, after Pyongyang reported “great hardship” in the area.

About 107,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in the area along the Tumen River, the UN said in a statement on Monday which cited Pyongyang’s figures.

North Korea’s official media has described the downpour which led to the floods near the northeastern border with China and Russia as the worst for decades and said it brought severe hardship to residents.

It says a nationwide 200-day labor campaign intended to bolster the economy has been redirected to assist the flood victims.

The impoverished nation is vulnerable to natural disasters, especially floods, due partly to deforestation and poor infrastructure.

At least 169 people were killed by a massive rainstorm in the summer of 2012.

Major state resources are swallowed up by a missile and nuclear weapons program, which Pyongyang says is essential to deter US aggression.

More than 35,500 houses have been hit by the latest floods, with 69 percent of them completely destroyed, and 8,700 public buildings have been damaged, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement on Sunday.

About 16,000 hectares of farmland have been inundated and at least 140,000 people urgently need help, it said.

A group of UN agencies, the international Red Cross, North Korea’s Red Cross and international nongovernmental organizations visited parts of the flood-stricken region last week to assess the needs of the people.

The UN said aid agencies have released material from stockpiles in North Korea such as food, shelter and kitchen kits, as well as water purification and health supplies.

The North Korean government was working urgently to reopen roads and distribute relief goods and building materials.

The priority was to rebuild 20,000 homes by early next month, before the bitter winter sets in.

Much of North Korea is hilly or mountainous, but slopes have long been stripped bare for fuel or turned into terraced fields. This allows rainwater to flow downhill unchecked.

A series of floods and droughts was partially responsible for a famine that killed hundreds of thousands between 1994 and 1998, with economic mismanagement and the loss of Soviet support exacerbating the situation.

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