27 September 2016
Vital relief supplies are reaching up to 20,000 people affected by serious flooding in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, also known as North Korea.
At the end of August, the north of the country was battered by 300 millimetres of rain. Typhoon Lionrock brought heavy rains to coastal areas at the same time.
The resulting flooding around the Tuman River and its tributaries – up to 12 metres deep in some villages – left 138 people dead and 400 missing.
The area is not prone to floods so people were largely unprepared for the scale of the disaster despite some warnings.
"A distressing time"
Some 69,000 people had to leave their homes and more than 30,000 houses were damaged, submerged or completely destroyed.
More than 140,000 people have been affected by the floods and are now without safe drinking water, putting them at risk of waterborne diseases.
Around 27,000 hectares of farmland have been flooded – an area roughly the size of Birmingham – just as maize and wheat crops were about to be harvested. This is causing food shortages and more people could die as a result.
Winter comes early to this region, which is rural and remote, making it difficult to reach even when there is no flooding. Freezing nights often start in October and later in the winter temperatures can fall to lower than -30 degrees.
Joy Singhal, British Red Cross North Korea country manager, said: “The death toll rising certainly is a huge worry.
“This is a distressing time for the people of North Korea, as winter settles in.
“People must make sure they have enough food, fuel and other supplies to survive the harsh weather. We need to act quickly to make sure supplies reach people on time. People also must have safe shelter and access to clean water restored.
Volunteers and supplies sent immediately
The Red Cross has worked in North Korea to help communities prepare for disasters for over ten years. Our partner, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Red Cross, is the biggest humanitarian organisation in the country.
More than 1,000 staff and volunteers immediately assessed the situation. They helped with evacuation, search and rescue, and psychological and emotional support for people affected.
In the first weeks of September, they distributed relief supplies including tents, water purification tablets and cooking utensils to 7,000 families in the most affected areas.
Winter help is planned
The Red Cross will continue to support 28,000 people through the winter. This includes provision of food, cooking utensils, coal for heating and cooking, winter clothes and quilts.
To help prevent disease, we will supply water purification tablets. In Hoeryong city, which was also affected by the floods, the Red Cross plans to help rebuild damaged water facilities and toilets.
Joy added: “The Red Cross in North Korea is well placed to address humanitarian needs due to its huge presence throughout the country.
“It is a well-respected and credible humanitarian organisation. Working with local authorities, they hope to reach as many people as possible in the coming weeks.”