North Korea flood death toll rises to 133, several still missing

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says mass-mobilisation 200-day labour campaign has been redirected to assist the flood victims.

The United Nations said severe flooding in the north-east of North Korea has killed nearly 133 people while another 395 were missing and tens of thousands were homeless.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) cited Pyongyang government figures and said in a statement on Monday that some 107,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in the area along the Tumen River.

According to North Korean state media, people who are in the north-eastern region near the border with China and Russia are suffering "great hardship".

A nationwide mass-mobilisation 200-day labour campaign was launched to help the economy but now it has been redirected to assist the flood victims.

On Sunday, OCHA said in a statement that more than 35,500 houses have been hit by floods. The statement also said that 69 per cent of those houses were completely destroyed and 8,700 public buildings have been damaged.

Around 16,000 hectares of farmland have been inundated and at least 140,000 people urgently need help, the statement added.

The UN agencies, international non-governmental organisations, the international Red Cross and the North's Red Cross have made a group to help the flood victims. OCHA said the group had visited parts of the flood-stricken region last week to assess needs.

The aid agencies have released material from stockpiles in the North such as food, shelter and kitchen kits and water purification and health supplies.

The North Korean government was working to reopen the roads as soon as possible. The government distributed relief goods and building materials. The priority was to rebuild 20,000 homes by early October before the bitter Korean winter sets in.

The North has already trumpeted the role of its ruling Workers' Party in responding to the disaster in North Hamgyong province.

The aim is "to turn the area into the fairyland in the era of the Workers' Party within this year by dint of army-people great unity, harmonious whole", Rodong Sinmun, the party newspaper said on Monday.

"The party regards the work for taking care of the people's life in a responsible way as the most important affair and duty and has steadily created legendary stories about love for the people," the paper added.

North Korea is quite vulnerable to natural disasters, especially floods as the surrounding mountains and hills have long been deforested for fuel, which allows the rainwater to flow downhill unchecked.

In 2012, as many as 169 people were killed by a massive rainstorm that also destroyed thousands of houses.

In April, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said chronic food shortages were expected to worsen in North Korea due to the tight food supplies last year and this year when "most households were already estimated to have poor or borderline food consumption levels".

The United Nations Security Council is planning fresh sanctions on North Korea after the nation staged its fifth nuclear weapons test on Friday.