North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Torrential Rains Continue to Inundate DPRK

A flooded village in Sinhung, South Hamgyong Province in KCTV footage from July 2010. North Korean media reported on 6 August that torrential rains continued in the first week of August (Photo: KCBS/Yonhap)

ROK military authorities have announced that 91 land mines have been found, washed in from the DPRK due to heavy flooding.

Korean Central TV reported that heavy, torrential rain continues to inundate the DPRK.  The country sustained widespread damage and loss of life due to flash floods during July.  According to Yonhap heavy rain has continued during the first week of August:

“Relatively heavy downpours recently fell in North Pyongan, Jagang, Ryanggang and part of South Pyongan provinces,” Pyongyang’s official Korean Central TV Broadcasting Station, monitored in Seoul, said in a weather report.

During the period from July 31 until noon of Aug. 6, Junggang in Jagang Province received 191 millimeters of rain, the most in the country, followed by Wonsan, South Hamgyong Province, with 188mm, Manpo, Jagang Province, with 156mm and Sijung, a county in the same province, with 139mm, the report said.

Taechon and Chonma, both in North Pyongan Province, received 130mm and 129mm of rain, respectively, while 113mm fell in Songwon of Jagang Province, it added.

KCNA reported on July storm damage on 5 August.  Previously KCTV reported, and KCNA issued a report, that Kim Jong Il was managing some of the government response to flash flooding:

According to information available in a relevant organ, some 5 560 dwelling houses and more than 350 public buildings and production-related facilities were destroyed or inundated and some 14 850 hectares of farmland submerged, buried or washed away in the country.

A total of 673 dwelling houses collapsed in Jagang Province and 486 in South Hamgyong Province. Even casualties were reported from the areas and their residents have seriously been affected by heavy rains.

Not a small number of industrial establishments were damaged or flooded, inflicting an adverse effect on the economic growth and the people’s living.

Two 150 000KVA transformers, a 75 000KVA transformer and other power equipment were broken and roadbeds buried under landslides, blocking up railway traffic in some areas.

Some river embankments were crumbled and roads and bridges waterlogged or wrecked in South phyongan and Kangwon provinces and other areas.

Many sections of irrigation channels were also seriously damaged.

An estimated 7 380 hectares of farmland got submerged in such granaries as South Hwanghae, North and South phyongan and South Hamgyong provinces alone.

In this July 2010 video image from Pyongyang‟s state-run Korean Central TV Broadcasting Station, a North Korean military chopper rescues workers trapped by a flash flood in Sinhung, South Hamgyong Province. (KCBS/Yonhap)

Chosun Ilbo citing a Tuesday (3 August) RFA story reports that “hundreds” may have been killed in the floods:

Heavy rains since mid-July have inflicted heavy losses in North Korea, with 120 killed in Hungnam, South Hamgyong Province alone, Radio Free Asia reported Tuesday.

Quoting a source in Chongjin in the province, the radio station said over 2,000 people along the Songchon River were completely isolated when localized torrential rain that fell in Hungnam for three hours on July 22 flooded the dikes. Most of them were rescued by military helicopters and fishing boats, but 120, including 40 middle school students mobilized to help farmers, died.

A source in Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province said rumor has it that over 160 drowned in Hungnam. There are said to have been many casualties in Kaechon, South Pyongan Province as well.

Some 60 Workers’ Party officials heading for Mt. Baekdu on an inspection tour were stranded on their train as part of the railroad was washed away in Unhung, Yanggang Province, said a source in the province. All markets were closed due to destroyed roads and railroads, further aggravating the suffering of the locals.

In reporting that the country has not yet asked for foreign assistance, Yonhap recounts conditions in the DPRK that exacerbate flooding:

North Korea is considered vulnerable to torrential rains because of serious deforestation and a lack of investment in flood controls. In 2007, more than 450 people were reportedly killed and some 150 others injured due to heavy rains.

North Korea’s official media have been reporting on property damage since the rainy season began several weeks ago in the region. But they have kept mum on any possible human losses while a U.S. media outlet said last month that as many as 120 people were killed amid heavy rains in the communist state recently.

“No request has been made by North Korea for international aid regarding rain damage,” a South Korean Unification Ministry official told reporters on the condition of anonymity.

Conditions inside the DPRK are ideal for mosquito breeding, JoongAng Ilbo reports that mosquitoes carrying malaria have been found near the DMZ:

Mosquitoes from the demilitarized zone are crossing into South Korea and spreading malaria to populations on the southern side. The reason: due to the chill in inter-Korean relations, yearly spraying on the Northern side has been halted.

According to the 2nd Provincial Office of Gyeonggi Province and the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention yesterday, there have been a total of 286 malaria patients in the province this year as of yesterday, a 27.7 percent increase compared to last year.

Most patients were found in Paju, Yeoncheon and Goyang, all near the demilitarized zone.

The government explained that the rise is due to poor preventive measures against disease-carrying mosquitoes on the northern side. In years past, the South and North agreed to spray insecticides during the summer season.

But because of tense relations between the two countries after the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan in March, the North hasn’t been doing its part.

As the number of malaria patients started to increase in May, the provincial office requested to the North in early July to participate in joint spraying. There was no response.

Jung Kwon Ho, writing for Daily NK writes on flooding conditions near the DPRK-PRC border, and local memories of a flood 15 years ago:

One of the municipal government officials in charge of flood prevention in Dandong met with reporters on August 4th, saying, “The water level of the Yulu River is rising rapidly and the Supung dam also exceeds danger levels. Any additional rains will increase the water level of the river by more than 4 meters and the river will flood. We have issued a warning on television and radio and sent a written warning to stores along the riverside.”

Sinuiju has also made an effort to prevent the flood by building up the embankment, but it is not enough to stop flood damage; especially, the topography of the industrial north of Sinuiju is low, which increases the risk of damage. In addition, it has been suggested that the building of flood defenses in Dandong might incite greater damage in Sinuiju.

One resident of Sinuiju commented during a phone interview with The Daily NK, “We experienced massive flood damage in 1995. The People’s Committee is just telling us to maintain the river and repair houses. So, there seem to be no clear preparations.”

The resident said, “There is a lot of farmland in South Sinuiju and Ryucho-ri; floods will cause great damage to it.”

This is of particular concern since one of the triggers of the famine that gripped North Korea in the late 1990s was the 1995 floods.

Xinhua reports on flooding in Jilin Province that has killed 85:

Floods have left 85 people dead and 66 missing in northeast China’s Jilin Province over the past two months, local authorities said Saturday. More than 5 million people have been affected since the flood season began in June and some 1.5 million people have been evacuated, the Jilin Provincial Civil Affairs Department said in a statement.

Additionally, almost 82,000 houses have collapsed and 198,000 others have been damaged, the statement said.

Direct economic losses were estimated at more than 45 billion yuan (6.6 billion U.S. dollars), it added.

In the hardest-hit areas, flash floods have cut roads, isolated villages and disrupted communications and water supplies.

Soldiers pack stones to reinforce a bank in Yongji County, northeast China's Jilin Province, Aug. 4, 2010. Floods hit dozens of counties in Jilin, causing more than 300,000 houses collaped and over 70 people died since this July. (Xinhua/Xu Jiajun)

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