North Korea rushes to get supplies, shelter to flood victims

2016-09-16 19:05
Workers recover cement blocks from flood-damaged areas in Onsong (AP).

Workers recover cement blocks from flood-damaged areas in Onsong (AP).

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Onsong — North Korean soldiers and relief teams rushed to clear roads and railway tracks, build shelters and provide food and sanitation on Friday to tens of thousands of residents in a remote part of the country near the Chinese border that was devastated by heavy downpours and flash floods when a typhoon pounded their villages last week.

Strong winds and flash floods caused by Typhoon Lionrock have killed more than 130 people, destroyed tens of thousands of homes and crippled infrastructure in North Korea's northern tip, according to officials in Pyongyang, the capital, and international aid organisations.

Workers in hard hats and rubber boots used shovels and formed lines on Friday to hand-remove rocks and rubble from flooded areas in Onsong County, where damage was severe, and tried to clear twisted railroad tracks so work could begin to repair them.

A UN report issued by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said the floods displaced tens of thousands of people and destroyed homes, buildings and critical infrastructure.

The UN report said the government has confirmed 133 people were killed and another 395 were missing. It said more than 35 500 houses, schools and public buildings were damaged, with 69% completely destroyed. It reported widespread inundation of farmland.

North Korean media said it was the worst single case of downpours and high winds since 1945, though that claim couldn't be verified.

Patrick Fuller, Asia Pacific spokesperson for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, which is on the ground in the affected area, said about 140 000 people are in urgent need of help, including food, water and shelter.

He said that in some villages virtually every building has been partially or completely destroyed, with watermarks on some buildings above head level, indicating how inundated some of the villages were by the waters.

"This is certainly worse than flooding we have seen in recent years and the picture is still unfolding," he said. "Now, 100 000 people have been displaced from their homes so the challenges of providing shelter for those people in the short and long term are going to be immense."

Local officials in Onsong said the first snows of winter are expected to begin falling in October and the ground will be frozen, so they are rushing to build "tens of thousands" of dwellings for flood victims. They said repairing and opening roads and railroads are a top priority so that more supplies and heavy equipment can be brought in.

The hardest-hit areas are Musan and Yonsa counties, near the Chinese border in the northern tip of the country. Musan, Yonsa and Onsong are all in North Hamgyong province.

Read more on:    north korea  |  weather

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