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North Korea evacuates 5,000 hit by floods

world Updated: Aug 22, 2010 09:03 IST
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North Korea has launched military rescue operations to evacuate thousands of people hit by floods that wreaked "severe damage" in the border areas near China, state media said today.

Three sectors of Sinuiju city, which is home to an air base, and three other nearby rural communities in the northwest were "completely inundated" by heavy floods on Saturday after the Yalu river burst its banks.

That prompted the North's leader Kim Jong-Il to immediately order an emergency military rescue operation, the official Korean Central News Agency said.

More than 5,000 people had been moved to safe areas, KCNA said, and there were no deaths.

"Affected areas' emergency rescue plans had showed little progress due to massive damages... but the Dear Leader made an order to immediately put military forces to the rescue battle," KCNA said.

Traffic in downtown Sinuiju was "paralysed", it said.

Downpours swelled the Yalu river, which forms the border between the North and China, sending floodwaters into homes on both sides of the frontier, state media in both nations said.

In North Korea, widespread flooding this summer has washed away homes, roads, railways and farmland, causing an unspecified number of fatalities in the impoverished country, according to state media reports from Pyongyang.

After decades of deforestation, North Korea is particularly vulnerable to flooding. In 2007, it reported at least 600 people dead or missing from devastating floods.