Flooding kills dozens in North Korea, thousands left homeless: Red Cross

GENEVA (Reuters) - Severe flooding in North Korea has killed at least 76 people with nearly the same number missing and thousands left homeless by the destruction, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said on Thursday.

Volunteers from the national Red Cross are conducting search and rescue operations in North and South Hwanghae provinces, where heavy rains began on August 28, it said, adding that many children were among the 75 missing.

“Heavy rains in recent days triggered large-scale flooding and landslides in low-lying areas, destroying more than 800 buildings including homes, clinics and schools,” the Geneva-based Federation said in a statement.

The Red Cross Society of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the country’s official name, was providing aid and deploying mobile water treatment plants, it said.

“Thousands have lost their homes and are in urgent need of health services, shelter, food, safe drinking water and sanitation,” said John Fleming of the Federation’s country office.

A month ago, the agency warned that a heat wave in North Korea had led to rice, maize and other crops withering in the fields, “with potentially catastrophic effects”, putting the country at risk of a “full-blown food security crisis”.

The drought-affected areas were South Hamgyong and South Pyongan provinces.

Drought and floods have long been a seasonal threat in North Korea, which lacks irrigation systems and other infrastructure to ward off natural disasters.

“Extreme weather events are occurring much more often,” Federation spokeswoman Laura Ngo-Fontaine said on Thursday.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Catherine Evans