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Red Cross Emergency Teams Tackle North Korea's Heatwave


FILE - A man walks past a logo of the South Korean Red Cross at its headquarters in Seoul, Feb. 9, 2011. The International Federation of Red Cross emergency response teams, armed with water pumps, are helping irrigate fields hard hit by North Korea's heat wave.

The International Federation of Red Cross says the current heat wave in North Korea poses a serious threat to vulnerable population groups and to the country's food supply.

Red Cross emergency response teams, armed with water pumps, are helping irrigate fields hard hit by North Korea's heat wave.

In addition, IFRC staff and volunteers have mounted a campaign to raise awareness about the signs, symptoms and treatment of heat-related illnesses.

Children and the elderly are among the most vulnerable "unless urgent action is taken," the IFRC said Friday.

Temperatures across the country are averaging at 39 degrees Celsius and there has been no rain since early July and none is expected until mid-August. The Red Cross says a similar dry spell last year caused a 7.2 percent drop in food production, in a country where much of the population already relies on food aid.

Joseph Muyambo, IFRC program manager in Pyongyang, said, "This is not yet classified as a drought, but rice, maize and other crops are already withering in the fields, with potentially catastrophic effects for the people of DPRK."

Even North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un seems to be feeling the heat. North Korean state media have published a picture of him stripped down to his undershirt while inspecting a factory.

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