August 01, 2012 07:48
A UN humanitarian agency says it has sent aid workers to two North Korean regions hit by severe floods to assess the need for relief supplies.
UNICEF spokesman Christopher de Bono said UN personnel based in North Korea left the capital, Pyongyang, on Tuesday to visit the flood-ravaged provinces of South Pyongan and Kangwon.
Heavy rains have triggered deadly floods across much of North Korea since July 25. State media last reported a death toll of 88 people on Saturday. There was no immediate word on casualties from downpours on Sunday and Monday.
North Korea said the floods also have left tens of thousands of people homeless and caused widespread damage to farmland. It has not made any formal requests for foreign assistance.
In a report Tuesday, Pyongyang's official news agency KCNA said Premier Choe Yong-rim visited several hard-hit towns, consoling residents and promising government support for reconstruction. It says he also called for planting more trees to prevent soil erosion. Many parts of North Korea have become prone to flooding because of deforestation.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson said that Washington continues to be concerned about the North Korean people, but has no plans to make its own assessment of the impact of the floods. She said the United States does not link the provision of humanitarian assistance to political or security issues.
A recent UN report said two-thirds of North Korea's 24 million people face chronic food shortages. Analysts say the latest flooding could make matters worse, since it came at the end of a drought.
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