Tuesday, August 14, 2007

North Korea seeks help after floods ravage country

Reuters: North Korea is seeking international help after it reported massive flooding had left hundreds of people dead or missing and swept away many buildings, a U.N. aid agency spokesman said on Tuesday. North Korea, which has struggled with chronic food shortages for years, also said in a report early on Tuesday that floodwaters caused "tens of thousands of hectares of farmland (to be) inundated, buried under silt and washed away".

Paul Risley, Asia spokesman with the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), said: "If the figures are borne out by our own assessment, then we are very concerned that this is a significant emergency crisis." …He said an U.N. agency assessment team left Pyongyang on Tuesday, headed for flood-hit areas.

…In an unusual move, the secretive state's official TV station broadcast images of the damage, showing rain-swollen rivers and pedestrians walking through waist-deep water in flooded Pyongyang streets. The broadcast was monitored in Seoul.

…The communist state's infrastructure outside of showcase projects in the capital Pyongyang, is mostly a shambles. North Korea has few funds for building and still uses power and rail lines built during Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule.

…Years of mismanagement of the farming sector mean the country does not produce enough food to feed its nearly 23 million people. Famine in the mid-to-late-1990s might have killed up to 10 percent of the population, experts have said. Even in a good year, North Korea still falls about 1 million tonnes short of the food it needs to feed its people…

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