N Korea floods 'kill hundreds'

Pyongyang appeals for help, reporting "huge human and material damage".

    State television showed pictures of flooded
    streets in the capital, Pyongyang

    In the mid-1990s, serious flooding triggered a famine in which aid groups estimate some two million North Koreans died.

    "Food security is always an issue of concern"

    Michael Dunford, World Food Programme in North Korea

    "The material damage so far is estimated to be very big. This unceasing heavy rain destroyed the nation's major railways, roads and bridges, suspended power supply and cut off the communications network," the news agency reported.
    Among the worst-hit areas were the southern provinces of Kangwon and North Hwanghae which border South Korea, and South Hamgyong in the east.
    The capital, Pyongyang, and the neighbouring provinces of South Hwanghae, southwest of the capital, and South Phyongan to the north were also badly affected.
    Farms submerged

    Deforestation in the countryside has been
    blamed for the worsening floods

    Preliminary information on Sunday estimated that more than 30,000 houses were destroyed, affecting over 63,300 families.
    "It also left tens of thousands of hectares of farmland inundated, buried under silt and washed away," the news agency said.
    Many parts of the country received between 30 and 67 centimetres of rain between August 7 and 12, it added.
    "As a result, the farmland in those areas was inundated, washed away and buried under silt and dwelling houses, public buildings, production establishments and other objects were completely or partly destroyed," it said.
    Michael Dunford, deputy country director of the United Nations' World Food Programme in North Korea told Al Jazeera the devastation of agricultural land could have a big impact on the entire country.
    "The DPRK is a country that does not produce enought food too feed itszelf and has had to rely on imports," he said. "Food security is always an issue of concern."
    Deforestation blamed
    Experts blamed decades of reckless deforestation for North Korea's flood problems, saying the country has been stripped of tree cover that provides natural protection.
    Energy-starved residents have used every scrap of wood from the countryside to cook food or heat homes through the bitter winters, leaving large areas of the country vulnerable to flooding and landslides.
    Officials made it worse by encouraging residents to expand farmland into the hillsides in a bid to grow more food.
    A decade later North Korea is still unable to feed all of its 23 million people and depends heavily on international food aid.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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