395 missing,107 000 forced to flee devastation
Severe flooding in a North Korean border region has killed at least 133 people with a further 395 missing and thousands of homes swept away, the UN says, after Pyongyang reported great hardship in the area.
Some 107 000 people have been forced to flee their homes in the area along the Tumen River, the world body said yesterday.
The North’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 mass-mobilisation 200-day labour 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 programme which Pyongyang says is essential to deter US aggression.
More than 35 500 houses have been hit by the latest floods, with 69% of them completely destroyed, and 8 700 public buildings have been damaged, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement on Sunday.
About 16 000ha of farmland have been inundated and at least 140 000 people urgently need help, it said.
OCHA said a group made up of UN agencies, international NGOs, the international Red Cross and the North’s Red Cross had visited parts of the flood-stricken region last week to assess needs.
It said aid agencies have released material from stockpiles in the North such as food and shelter.
Unicef said its staff were part of the joint UN, NGO and government rapid assessment team. It said a truck carrying emergency supplies including oral rehydration salts, medical kits, vitamin supplements and water purification tablets left Pyongyang on September 5 on its way to the affected areas, and that further supplies were on the way.
The North’s government was working urgently to reopen roads and was distributing relief goods and building materials.
The priority was to rebuild 20 000 homes by early next month, before the bitter Korean winter sets in.
The North has trumpeted the role of its ruling Workers’ Party in responding to the disaster.