North Korean leader's pet ski resort project hit by floods

SEOUL (AFP) - Severe floods in North Korea have crippled a ski resort seen as a pet project of leader Kim Jong Un, as workers rushing to repair the site ignored nearby towns, according to reports.

South Korea's Chosun Ilbo daily on Wednesday said several buildings at the Masik resort had been buried in a landslide triggered by torrential rains. The rains have killed 28 people nationwide, according to the International Federation of the Red Cross Crescent Societies (IFRC).

According to news site Daily NK, large swathes of farmlands and towns near the resort site were inundated as water and mud flowed down the ski slope which had been shorn of its trees.

"But soldiers and workers mobilised to fix damages were only sent to the ski resort," the report said.

The "world class" ski resort being built at Masik has been heavily promoted by the North's propaganda machine since Mr Kim visited the site in June.

Describing the resort as a "gigantic patriotic work," Mr Kim said he wanted the facility - with 110 km of multi-level ski runs, a hotel, heliport and cable cars - completed by the end of the year.

According to the Chosun Ilbo, the hotel was one of the buildings damaged by the recent landslide.

The importance attached to the Masik resort has fuelled speculation that the North might consider making a late bid to co-host some events of the 2018 Winter Olympics being held in rival South Korea.

Decades of deforestation and decrepit infrastructure have left the isolated state vulnerable to floods, which led to some 170 deaths last summer.

A recent report by the IFRC said the latest rains and floods had destroyed some 13,300 hectares of farmland and displaced 49,000 people.

Early crops, including potatoes, have perished and the July flooding is expected to have "a longer term impact on food security", the report said, noting the "severe disruption" of public access to safe water.

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