by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) Aug 2, 2012
The Red Cross said Thursday it had allocated almost $308,000 for victims of North Korea's floods and storms, after state media reported 119 deaths and major crop damage in the food-scarce nation.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies will spend 300,969 Swiss francs to cover the cost of immediate help for some 2,500 families, said IFRC regional spokesman Francis Markus.
The North's official news agency late Wednesday reported 31 killed by landslides and lightning during storms on Sunday and Monday and 16 missing, in addition to 88 earlier reported dead in floods last month.
More than 21,000 people were left homeless by the latest storms, bringing the total made homeless by recent bad weather to around 84,000, it said.
A total of 45,370 hectares (122,500 acres) of farmland had ben submerged or washed away.
Coal mines in the Kaechon and Tokchon areas were also hit by "devastating" floods and tens of thousands of tonnes of coal and equipment was washed away, the news agency said.
IFRC and UN officials have toured devastated areas to assess aid needs.
"In one community, about half of the houses were either destroyed or damaged," Markus said Wednesday, adding victims badly need drinking water, food and medical assistance.
The flooding represents a challenge for Kim Jong-Un, new leader of the nation which has grappled with severe food shortages since a famine in the 1990s killed hundreds of thousands.
UN agencies estimated last autumn that three million people would need food aid this year even before the deluge.
Widespread deforestation, partly to clear land for crops, has made the impoverished nation increasingly prone to serious flooding which washes away the harvest.
Markus, in an email to AFP, said the landslides were a reminder of the severe deforestation which the IFRC was trying to correct.
Millions of seedlings were planted every year under a programme which began several years ago.
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