Floods kill 60, leave 44,000 homeless in N. Korea

SEOUL • Flooding following heavy rain has killed 60 people and left over 44,000 homeless in North Korea, according to the United Nations (UN) after the country reported that a north-eastern river suffered its worst-ever flood.

Pyongyang said last Friday the Tumen River, which partially marks the border with China and Russia, experienced the biggest flood ever recorded, due to a rainstorm that began four days earlier. Nearby areas, including Musan and Hoeryong, were hard hit with 5 per cent of the population homeless, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said yesterday. It cited data from the government.

"Communication with and access to affected areas remain a challenge... immediate needs have been identified as emergency shelter, food, medication, water and sanitary items," it said.

Nearly 9,000 buildings were destroyed or damaged with 10,000ha of farmland flooded, it said, adding joint relief efforts involving the UN and the North were under way.

North Korea's state media reported last Friday that 15 people were missing after more than 17,000 houses were destroyed or damaged.

The impoverished nation is vulnerable to natural disasters, especially floods. At least 169 were killed by a massive rainstorm in the summer of 2012.

Its territory is largely composed of mountains and hills that have long been deforested for fuel or turned into terraced rice 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.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2016, with the headline 'Floods kill 60, leave 44,000 homeless in N. Korea'. Print Edition | Subscribe