"North Korea hit by heavy rains, but damage, victims unknown"
Agence France-Presse, Aug. 4, 1998
SEOUL, Aug 4 (AFP) - Disaster-stricken North Korea has been hit by the heavy rains which have caused massive flooding in rival South Korea, but no details of loss of life or property were available, sources said Tuesday.
The isolated communist country -- suffering a critical famine caused partly by severe flooding in recent years -- has recorded heavy rainfall over the past month, notably since last weekend, diplomats and reports said.
"It's clear from information we have received that North Korea, like the whole of the Korean peninsula, has been subject to storms and intense rainfall over recent days," a North Korea watcher here said.
"What is unclear, however, is what effects this rain has had given the fact that most of the country is stripped of vegetation and is therefore extremely vulnerable to flooding," he added.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency said North Korea had recorded heavy rain between June 26 and July 27, but rainfall was "not as much as last year."
One northern province on the border with China, Shinuju, recorded a massive 600 millimeters (24.0 inches) of rain between June 22 and June 30, and a further 462 millimeters (18.48 inches) in July.
But other provinces recorded between 10 to 80 millimeters (0.5 to 3.2 inches) in June and 100 to 300 millimeters (4.0 to 12.0 inches) in July, the national agency said in a report which could not be independently confirmed.
North Korea watchers said they were anxiously looking for more information on the state of flooding in the secretive country where millions of people are reported to be near starvation.
Pyongyang has called for hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid to help counter the effects of unprecedented flooding and drought since 1994 that have ravaged agriculture and wrought economic collapse.
In May, it asked foreign donors for 300 million dollars to top up the 1.7 billion dollars that Pyongyang has undertaken to provide to restore its shattered farming sector by the turn of the century. The effects of natural calamities have been aggravated by the
loss of preferential trade links with the former Soviet Union and other erstwhile allies of the secretive Communist state.
Meanwhile in South Korea, more than 40,000 rescuers were searching for survivors of flash floods which have claimed at least 54 lives and left 47 missing.
The floods followed heavy weekend rains, which are persisting across many parts of the country, and have claimed hundreds of lives in China.