UN to visit flood-hit areas in North Korea
SEOUL (AFP) - A United Nations (UN) team will visit flood-hit areas of North Korea to consider possible aid, a UN official said on Tuesday after Pyongyang reported scores dead and tens of thousands homeless.
The country's official news agency published photographs which appeared to show large swathes of submerged land, and people wading through thigh-high water or taking refuge on rooftops.
UN officials already based in the North would visit the two worst-affected counties "to see what help if any the UN country team can provide", said United Nations Children's Fund's (UNICEF) Bangkok-based regional spokesman Christopher de Bono by email.
The teams have left Pyongyang, one heading for South Pyongan province in the west of the country and another for Kangwon province in the east, he said.
The flooding represents a challenge for Kim Jong Un, new leader of a country which has grappled with severe food shortages since a famine in the 1990s killed hundreds of thousands.
Following a visit to the country, UN agencies estimated in November 2011 that three million people would need food aid this year.
Widespread deforestation, to collect firewood or clear land for agriculture, has made the impoverished nation increasingly prone to serious flooding which disrupts agriculture.
On Saturday, the official news agency said a week-long flood earlier in July had left 88 dead, injured 134, and made almost 63,000 people homeless.
More than 30,000 ha of crops were washed away or submerged, with roads and factories destroyed, it said.
On Sunday, state media reported strong winds and heavy rain were battering parts of the country, including the capital Pyongyang. The official news agency predicted that "most regions will face huge damage".
The United States (US) reached a deal in February this year to offer the North 240 million kg of food in return for a freeze on nuclear and missile tests.
But the plan was scrapped after Pyongyang's failed rocket launch in April, seen by the US and its allies as an attempted ballistic missile test.