Report: North Korean floods kill 549, with 295 missing |

Report: North Korean floods kill 549, with 295 missing

SEOUL, South Korea – Floods last month in North Korea killed at least 549 people and left 295 others still missing, a pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan said Monday.The floods, which were spawned by heavy rains in mid-July, also destroyed nearly 4,500 homes and damaged more than 3,000 others, according to the report by the Choson Sinbo newspaper, which is published by a pro-North Korean association linked to the Pyongyang regime.”Recovery efforts are proceeding at rapid speed as relief supplies are being sent to the afflicted areas,” the newspaper said on its Web site, which is monitored in Seoul.The heavy rains flooded nearly 40,000 of farmland and completely washed away more than 8,500 acres, the paper reported, putting a further strain on the impoverished communist country’s ability to feed its 23 million people.Choson Sinbo sometimes acts as an unofficial mouthpiece for the reclusive, communist North.The death toll figure would represent a sharp increase from the official tally of 154 dead and 127 missing from the floods, according to the United Nations. The Red Cross said last week that 151 people had been killed and 29 left missing, based on government-provided figures.North Korea’s official media has previously reported that “hundreds” were killed in the disaster, without giving specifics.In South Korea, flooding killed 34 people and left 18 missing last month.North Korea has told international aid groups operating in the capital of Pyongyang that it doesn’t want them to launch an emergency appeal on its behalf.In an indication of the scope of the tragedy, however, a North Korean official said last week that the country was in urgent need of food and would accept aid from South Korea.South Korea, a key provider of rice and fertilizer aid to the North, recently suspended its aid to the North to protest Pyongyang’s refusal to discuss its missile launches in early July that drew international condemnation and raised regional tensions.However, the government has now said it would consider contributing to non-governmental aid shipments for the flood victims amid growing calls at home to help the impoverished North.The North has relied on outside handouts since the mid-1990s following natural disasters and decades of mismanagement. Famine is believed to have killed up to 2 million people in the country.

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