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Red Cross Appeals for Help for North Korean Flood Victims - 2001-10-17

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says flooding in North Korea has killed 80 people and left about 60,000 people homeless. The agency is appealing for funds to supply emergency assistance to an area already plagued by food shortages.

Two cities and eight counties along North Korea's eastern coast were hit by heavy rain a week ago. This, along with strong winds and sea surges led to massive flooding.

A Red Cross spokeswoman, Solveig Olafsdottir, says the damage is extensive, especially in Kangwon province. "The Red Cross is very concerned about the population of Kangwon Province, as it was already deprived of food and health services before the floods," she said. "And, the situation now has been seriously exacerbated. There is a fear of an outbreak of water-borne diseases."

Temperatures are expected to drop dramatically in the next few weeks. As a consequence, Ms. Olafsdottir says, there is an increased risk of respiratory infections. She says clinics in the province are poorly equipped, and will be unable to deal with a large number of sick people.

The floods also have destroyed much of the rice harvest. Ms. Olafsdottir says more than 22,600 hectares of paddy fields have been damaged, and 73,000 tons of rice lost. "The harvesting was going on," she said. "So, the rice had already been cut, and immediately after the disaster struck, eye-witnesses said they had seen adults and children trying to salvage the cut rice from the paddy fields."

Ms. Olafsdottir says about 10 percent of the harvest could be saved, if it is washed with clean water. But she says clean water is scarce, because the floods damaged the water and sanitation systems.

The Red Cross is appealing for nearly $500,000 to help thousands of flood victims during the next three-months. Among other things, the money will be used to provide shelter, clean water, and medicines. The U.N. World Food Program will distribute food.