Thousands homeless in North Korea from Typhoon: aid agencies
BEIJING - Typhoon Rusa has left thousands of people homeless and destroyed tonnes of crops in famine-hit North Korea, international aid officials said on Wednesday citing newly release official figures.
However the new information from the North Korean Red Cross Society did not mention any deaths, despite reports from official media that "scores" were killed when Rusa struck the east coast of the country over the weekend.
More than 7,000 people have been directly affected by floods caused by the typhoon, the UN quoted initial Red Cross reports as saying.
In Kangwon province, the only one believed affected by the storm, 4,401 people were made homeless, said Brendan McDonald, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Most of the homeless were staying in community halls and schools.
Initial reports from Pyongyang's Flood Damage Rehabilitation Committee (FDRC) indicated that the worst-affected areas were the counties of Anbyon, Tongchon and Kosong, which received between 300 to 510 millimeters (12 to 20 inches) of rain on Sunday.
The floods also caused damage to infrastructure including the road network, bridges, railway lines, electricity, schools and telephone lines.
The North Korean Red Cross also said 25 kilometers (16 miles) of roads and 24 bridges were destroyed, McDonald said.
Total crop production losses for the entire province was 86,000 tonnes of mostly rice paddies and maize, the official figures said.
However McDonald said it was unlikely the damage was this serious as the figure represented potential harvest loss, and officials tended to be over-optimistic in predictions.
The harvest was also one to two months away, and international experts believe crops will likely survive because they had received substantial amounts of fertilizer, he added.
Based on what the international aid agencies saw when they were taken on a visit to two counties affected, the damage appeared to be localized, McDonald said, with flood damage to fields estimated by the agencies to be light.
"The government will likely be able to respond to the needs itself," McDonald said.
The Red Cross is assisting almost 3,000 homeless people in Tongchon county by providing them with blankets, kitchenware, water containers and water purification tablets, he said.
There have been reports of increased incidences of diarrhea, which is common when water supply is contaminated with flood water, but there is no evidence it is serious, McDonald said. - AFP