by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) July 29, 2012
North Korea said Sunday it was being lashed by severe thunderstorms that could cause major damage, just days after flooding that killed scores and left tens of thousands homeless.
State media reported strong winds and heavy rains were battering parts of the country, including the capital Pyongyang, with the official news agency predicting that "most regions will face huge damages".
The second unusually detailed report on bad weather in two days will add to concerns the North's farmland has been ravaged, which could cause new food shortages in a state that struggles to feed its people at the best of times.
Following a visit to the country, UN agencies estimated last November that three million people would need food aid in 2012.
It also represents a challenge for new leader Kim Jong-Un, struggling to get to grips with running one of the world's most secretive states.
The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said late Sunday that heavy rains and strong winds were battering the country, addng areas of Pyongyang, and North Pyongan and South Pyongan provinces were particularly hard hit.
"Torrential downpours are continuing even at this hour in some regions... it is expected that most regions will face huge damages due to the heavy downpour, strong wind and thunders," it said.
The North earlier on Sunday forecast heavy rains in most parts of the country on Sunday and Monday, particularly warning of downpours set to deluge the west coast and the northern province of Jagang.
The warning comes a day after Pyongyang disclosed that a week-long flood earlier this month had left 88 dead, injured 134, and made almost 63,000 people homeless.
More than 30,000 hectares (74,000 acres) of crop fields were washed away or submerged, with roads and factories destroyed, KCNA said.
After decades of deforestation the impoverished North is particularly vulnerable to flooding.
With rugged terrain and outmoded agricultural practices, the communist state faces serious difficulties in feeding its 24 million people. Hundreds of thousands died during a famine in the mid to late 1990s.
The United States reached a deal in February this year to offer the North much-needed 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 banned under UN resolutions.
N. Korea floods kill 88, leave thousands homeless
A week of floods "caused by typhoon and downpour... claimed big human and material losses", Pyongyang's official news agency said. The new death toll was a dramatic increase from the figure of eight reported Wednesday.
A total of 134 people were injured and almost 63,000 people were left homeless by the floods, which started on July 18, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported, with thousands of houses damaged or destroyed.
The biggest loss of human life was in two counties of South Pyongan province, which were hit by torrential rains on Monday and Tuesday, it said.
More than 30,000 hectares (74,000 acres) of land for growing crops was "washed away and buried" or "submerged", KCNA said, a potential blow for a state that is beset by persistent severe food shortages.
With rugged terrain and outmoded agricultural practices, the country faces serious difficulties in feeding its 24 million people. Hundreds of thousands died during a famine in the mid to late-1990s.
UN agencies, after a visit to the North, estimated last November that three million people would need food aid in 2012.
Some 300 public buildings and 60 factories were damaged in the floods, as well as large stretches of road, KCNA said.
State media reported earlier this week that 60 flood victims were rescued thanks to a helicopter urgently sent by leader Kim Jong-Un.
The victims, including children and women, were trapped Monday on a hillock in the northwest of the country after a river flooded due to heavy rain, the official news agency said.
"Isolated incommunicado, they did not find a way out, in panic at rising water. At that time a helicopter appeared," it said.
"After receiving an urgent report, the dear respected Kim Jong-Un issued an emergency sortie order to a unit of the Air Force of the Korean People's Army."
After decades of deforestation, the impoverished North Korea is particularly vulnerable to flooding.
Dozens were killed or injured by a storm and torrential rain in the North in June and July last year. Thousands were also made homeless and large areas of farmland were flooded.
The United States reached a deal on February 29 this year to offer North Korea badly needed food aid in return for a freeze on nuclear and missile tests.
But it rescinded the plan after the North's failed rocket launch in April, seen by the United States and its allies as an attempted ballistic missile test.
The North has been developing nuclear weapons for decades and staged two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.
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