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North Koreans in desperate need of food after floods

By the CNN Wire Staff
August 6, 2012 -- Updated 2251 GMT (0651 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • North Korea is in need of immediate food assistance, the U.N. says
  • The World Food Programme announces it is sending emergency food aid
  • State media: More than 212 000 people are homeless
  • Eighty-eight people have died, U.N. says, but national media put the toll at 169

(CNN) -- The World Food Programme is stepping in to feed people in North Korea, where floods have ruined crops and left hundreds of thousands homeless, according to reports.

The United Nations declared the situation in North Korea an emergency Thursday after torrential rain soaked the country between July 18 and 29. Eighty-eight people have died, a U.N. report said, though national media put the toll at 169.

Counties most affected by the floods are in need of immediate food assistance, the report said.

Read more on the North Korea floods

Heavy rain hit the capital Pyongyang, as well as North and South Phyongan provinces last week. The country faced similar extreme weather in 2010 (as pictured here in the Pyongyang province.)
Heavy rain hit the capital Pyongyang, as well as North and South Phyongan provinces last week. The country faced similar extreme weather in 2010 (as pictured here in the Pyongyang province.)
Crops destroyed in North Korea flood

The downpours swept away crops and destroyed buildings, the state-run Korean Central News Agency said.

The floods also damaged wells and pumping stations, leaving about 50,000 families without clean drinking water, the U.N. report said.

As Saturday, 144 had been injured, KCNA said. It reported that 212 200 people are homeless.

Read more about Asia's recent extreme wet weather

"Most areas of the DPRK are expected to suffer big damage from continuous downpour accompanied by thunder and storm," KCNA reported Monday, using the abbreviation of the country's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The destruction of farmland is of particular concern in a country that struggles to feed itself.

The World Food Programme said Friday that it is sending a first round of emergency food aid that will provide rations of 400 grams (14 ounces) of maize per day for 14 days.

The United Nations reported more than 30,600 hectares (75,600 acres) of arable land was affected.

Employees from humanitarian groups that operate inside North Korea describe severe malnourishment on a large scale. A deal earlier this year for the United States to ship food aid to the country fell apart after the regime went ahead with a controversial rocket launch.

The highest numbers of deaths so far from the flooding were reported in areas of South Phyongan province, northeast of the capital, Pyongyang.

The heavy rain Sunday hit Pyongyang as well as North and South Phyongan provinces. The capital is the richest and most developed part of the country, and is used as a showcase by the secretive, nuclear-armed regime. The provinces tend to be poorer and have weaker infrastructure.

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