South Korea : Floods caused by the largest rains ever recorded in parts of North Korea have destroyed more than one-tenth of the impoverished country’s farmland at the height of the growing season, official media reported on 15August.
Precipitation along some areas of the Taedong River are the “largest ever in the history” of measurements taken by the country’s weather agency.The amount of detail given in the official reports on this year’s storms by the secretive North appeared to indicate the desperation of the regime. It also amounts to a cry for help from the outside world.
The damage has submerged, buried or washed away more than 11% rice and corn fields in the country according to figures released by Agriculture Ministry.
The rain was worse than downpours that battered the country 40 years ago. Total rain from Aug. 7-11 averaged 524 millimeters (20.6 inches), 52 millimeters (2.1 inches) more than in the previous disaster in that same month in 1967.
The North is especially susceptible to bad weather because of a vicious circle where people strip hillsides of natural vegetation to create more arable land to grow food, increasing risk of floods. The country has suffered from food shortages since the mid-1990s, due to natural disasters along with outdated farming methods and the loss of Pyongyang’s Soviet benefactor.
North Korean state media earlier said the summer storms that battered wide swaths of the country left “hundreds” dead or missing, and other aid officials have said the toll was at least 200.
The UN food agency estimated based on its previous surveys that the amount of damage the North Koreans claimed to its fields, if confirmed, would result in losses of about 450,000 tons of crops, nearly half of the 1 million ton annual shortage the country already faces.
Reportedly 200,000-300,000 people are now homeless, with the total number of those affected probably much larger.
Food supplies and aid to be affected
Tensions over the North’s nuclear weapons programme have constrained feeding efforts as other countries were reluctant to donate aid, although the situation has improved and N Korea shut off its sole operating nuclear reactor last month.
Number of people being fed is likely to cross 1.9 million people, most of whom are children and nursing mothers once a donation of $20 million is made towards food that will come from South Korea.
Because of the floods, that aid was expected to be diverted and the WFP will likely launch a new international appeal for assistance.
The WFP is able to produce critical food items such as biscuits from factories that it runs inside N Korea. However, it still needs outside commodities like wheat and rice that are shipped via roads and rai which the North has said were hard-hit by the latest weather.
N Korea was devastated by floods last year too when South Korean intelligence estimated that 800-900 people were left dead or missing.