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N. Korea’s Kim orders thousands to help typhoon recovery

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Kim Jong Un stands in front of an area affected by Typhoon Maysak. AFP

SEOUL (AFP) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered 12,000 elite members of his ruling party based in Pyongyang to help with recovery efforts in two rural provinces lashed by a powerful typhoon, state media reported yesterday.

Typhoon Maysak brought days of heavy downpours to the country’s east coast earlier this week even as the North was still reeling from earlier flooding and typhoon damage, and another storm is forecast to barrel through the peninsula by Tuesday.

Natural disasters tend to have a greater impact in the North due to its creaking infrastructure, and the country is vulnerable to flooding as many mountains and hills have long been deforested.

More than 1,000 homes were destroyed by Maysak and public buildings and farmland were inundated with floodwater across North and South Hamgyong provinces, the official KCNA news agency reported.

Kim inspected the damage on Saturday and held a policy meeting on disaster relief efforts, KCNA said.

He also dismissed the chairman of the South Hamgyong provincial party committee, the report added.

Photos carried by Sunday’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper showed Kim standing in front of destroyed homes and toppled trees as he discussed the situation with officials.

In a two-page handwritten open letter to members of the ruling Workers’ Party in Pyongyang, Kim said around 12,000 members from the capital will be sent to the two provinces to help with the recovery ahead of a key holiday next month.

North Korea will mark the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the party on October 10.

“We cannot let a lot of people in South Hamgyong Province and North Hamgyong Province who newly suffered damage spend the holiday homeless,” Kim was quoted as saying in the letter, which was carried by the Rodong Sinmun.

The damage was an “urgent situation which needs to be tackled without even a moment’s delay”, he added.

The report did not say how many were injured, missing, or dead.

In 2016 at least 138 North Koreans died after torrential rain triggered major floods, the United Nations said at the time.

In the summer of 2012 more than 160 people were killed by a massive rainstorm.

In related news, a powerful typhoon headed toward southern Japan yesterday, with officials warning of record rainfall and winds strong enough to snap power poles and flip vehicles.

Typhoon Haishen, categorised as “large” and “extremely strong”, was expected to move in the afternoon through the Amami region of small islands near Kyushu that separate the Pacific Ocean and the East China Sea.

At noon (0300 GMT), Haishen was about 80 kilometres (50 miles) east of Amami Oshima island, with gusts up to 234 km (145 miles) per hour.

The storm was forecast to head north-northwest and travel off the western coast of Kyushu –  one of Japan’s main islands – from the evening through early Monday before reaching South Korea, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Once the storm comes near inhabited islands, its violent winds might become strong enough to snap power poles and flip vehicles, meteorologists have warned.

“In areas where the typhoon will draw close, record-level rainfall is expected. It may cause landslides or it could cause even large rivers to flood,” Yoshihisa Nakamoto, director of the forecast division at the weather agency, said during a televised briefing.

He added that surging tides may cause widespread flooding in low-lying areas, particularly around river mouths.

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