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N. Korea Needs Immediate Help Following Floods, says Red Cross - 2002-08-12

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says thousands of people in North Korea need immediate help after being left homeless by flash floods and landslides.

The Red Cross says more than 22,000 North Koreans were left homeless after sudden, torrential rains hit two western provinces and other counties one week ago. The flooding coincided with strong winds and was aggravated by water surges from burst dams.

Red Cross spokeswoman Jemini Pandya says one of the affected provinces, South Hwanghae, is North Korea's so-called rice bowl.

"There, about 300,700 hectares of paddy and non-paddy fields were damaged," she said. "We do not know the extent of the damage, but as you know, the country is already experiencing food shortages. So of course, any damage to crops is to be lamented."

Ms. Pandya says more than 400 people were injured in the floods and scores are reported dead or missing. She says communication lines still are down in several areas and so it is not possible to get an accurate report on casualties.

The Red Cross official says the North Korean Red Cross and local authorities averted an even greater disaster because they were able to issue an early warning flood alert.

"In addition, it set up a first aid post to help those who were injured and the rescue team saved at least 189 people by boat and helped evacuate others to higher ground," Ms. Pandya said. "In addition, several hundred volunteers were used for search and rescue missions to find people who had either been moved or drowned."

The Red Cross is appealing for $600,000 to buy plastic sheeting to provide temporary shelter for the homeless. It also will provide blankets, water purification tablets and medical aid for more than 20,000 people whose homes were washed away.