September 07, 2010 12:13
Footage obtained by the Chosun Ilbo on Monday shows extensive flood damage in the North Korean border town of Sinuiju. The footage, taken late last month, shows water receding in most parts of Sinuiju but many people seem to be living in makeshift tents due to the slow recovery efforts.
Salvaged home appliances covered in vinyl sheets can be seen piled up next to tents made from sacks. Residents sit in front of their tents looking dazed. Excavators and dump trucks can be spotted, but none of them are in use.
A North Korean source who took the footage said, "The residents of Sinuiju have received no aid because authorities were tied up getting ready for Kim Jong-il's visit to China late last month and are busy preparing for the extraordinary congress of the Workers Party this month." The source added UN aid shipments have all been sent to Pyongyang, and the authorities are telling people in Sinuiju to fend for themselves. But there is no electricity or water so everything is a mess."
The source said locals are cursing Kim Jong-il for refusing to accept South Korea's offer of W10 billion (US$1=W1,171) worth of food and supplies. A lot of people in Sinuiju tune into South Korean radio broadcasts, and information apparently spreads quickly there.
The footage also shows an area filled with low-rise residential buildings where people with basins and buckets gather around an old truck to buy potable water. Somebody asks, "How much is this?" and is told 150 North Korean won each.
But the Chaeha market, which was bustling with shoppers in early August, is still teeming with commercial activity, making it hard to believe that the region had been hit by heavy flooding. If there is any difference, it is that the merchants had moved their goods outside. Their outdoor stalls stretch for hundreds of meters along a road leading up to the market.
"The market building, which was submerged under water, has not been cleaned up yet," said the North Korean source. Throngs of shoppers and streets lined with merchants make for a chaotic scene. Young men can be spotted occasionally, but most of the traders are middle-aged women selling rice, potatoes, cabbage, radishes, bananas, peppers, eggs and shoes. Shoppers are seen taking cash out of their pockets to buy vegetables and other products and walk away with their hands full. Some women can be seen buying what appear to be mirrors packaged in boxes with Chinese characters on them.
"As of last weekend, Sinuiju has been declared off limits to outsiders so relief supplies are not getting in," the source said. "If that market wasn't there, the people of Sinuiju might have resorted to rioting."
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