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N. Korean Floods Leave 400 People Missing, 212,000 Homeless

North Korea said 400 people were missing and about 212,000 were left homeless following heavy rains and floods that lasted through July.

The floods killed 169 people and injured 144, while destroying more than 8,600 houses and submerging 43,770 residential buildings, the official Korean Central News Agency said yesterday. At least 65,280 hectares of farmland was damaged, KCNA said.

Inundation of coal mines north of Pyongyang threatens to hurt the isolated communist country that relies on exports of underground minerals as one of few legitimate ways to earn foreign currencies. North Korea, now under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, has been grappling with decades of food shortages and economic mismanagement, while its nuclear weapons and missile programs have cut international support.

North Korean Premier Choe Yong Rim toured Anju, where almost all public buildings and industrial facilities were flooded or destroyed, with water and power supplies cut off, KNCA said in a separate report. Choe was briefed on the damages in the city and held a meeting, the agency said.

United Nations staff members based in North Korea made visits on July 31 with the Red Cross and other non-governmental organizations to two storm-struck counties to investigate and assess damage and needs, Christopher de Bono, Unicef’s chief of communications for East Asia and the Pacific, wrote in an e-mail last week.

UN Visit

The visits were made at the request of the North Korean government, according to a July 30 statement on the website of the UN’s North Korea office. The UN expanded sanctions against the North after it conducted a long-range missile test on April 13. The test also cost Kim a deal with the U.S. for 240,000 metric tons of food promised in exchange for a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests.

North Korea’s rainy season began on July 18 as Typhoon Khanun struck the Korean peninsula, hitting northwestern coastal areas the hardest. The monsoon season set in after the country’s worst drought in a century threatened wheat, barley and potato harvests.

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