North Korea hit hard by floods after heavy rain as 15 missing, thousands homeless: State media

A woman holding an umbrella walks before the Tower of the Juche Idea, on Kim Il Sung square during rainfall in Pyongyang on July 16, 2016.
A woman holding an umbrella walks before the Tower of the Juche Idea, on Kim Il Sung square during rainfall in Pyongyang on July 16, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (AFP) - Flooding caused by torrential rains hit North Korea this week, leaving 15 people missing and thousands of others homeless, according to Pyongyang's state media.

The Tumen River, which serves as part of the border between China, Russia and North Korea, burst its banks in "the worst-ever flood" in the area, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said late on Friday (Sept 2).

In the north-eastern province of North Hamgyong, 15 people were missing in Hoeryong City and several counties including Musan, Yonsa and Onsong and part of the Rason special economic zone also suffered "serious damage".

More than 17,000 houses were destroyed or partly damaged, forcing 44,000 people to seek shelter elsewhere, KCNA said.

North Hamgyong Province received up to 32cm of rain between early Tuesday and mid-Friday, it said.

"Relentless campaigns are under way to stabilize people's livelihood and restore damaged properties," it said, adding that further assessments of the damage would continue.

North Korea is known for being vulnerable to natural disasters, especially floods.

Its territory is largely composed of mountains and hills that have long been deforested for fuel or turned into terraced rice fields, allowing rainwater to flow downhill unchecked, washing away top soil from agricultural fields.

A series of floods and droughts sparked a famine between 1994 and 1998 in the impoverished state, with economic mismanagement coupled with the loss of Soviet support exacerbating the situation.