Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Floods cause Korean food shortage

North Korea needs immediate food assistance after heavy rains killed scores of people and submerged vast swaths of farmland.

That assessment was released by the UN resident co-ordinator's office in Pyongyang following visits to flood-stricken areas in North Korea earlier this week. Floods caused by two storm systems last month killed at least 119 people and left tens of thousands homeless, according to the North's state media.

The flooding, which occurred on the heels of a severe drought, renewed concerns about North Korea's ability to feed its people. In June, the UN said two-thirds of the country's 24 million people are coping with chronic food shortages.

The UN report said torrential rains caused severe damage to homes, public buildings, infrastructure and farms, affecting maize, soybean and rice fields. The worst-hit areas are Anju city and Songchon County in South Phyongan Province, as well as Chonnae County in Kangwon Province, where residents are in dire need of emergency food aid, it said.

Some 36,000 families in Anju do not have access to clean water; wells are contaminated due to overflow of pit latrines and open drainage, raising the risk of a diarrhoea outbreak, the report said. A city official told The Associated Press earlier this week that it was the worst disaster in Anju's history.

North Korean officials are asking for food, fuel, medicine, water and purification supplies, while farmers are requesting seeds and fertiliser for the next season, the UN said.

Aid groups have donated emergency supplies, including the British-based charity ShelterBox, which dispatched 270 tents to North Korea, according to Howard Chang, a spokesman for Rotary International, who provides funding to ShelterBox.

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