SEOUL, South Korea – Floods that swept across North Korea earlier this month left at least 600 people dead or missing, the country's official news agency said Saturday, double the previously known toll.
Citing North Korea's Central Statistics Bureau, the Korean Central News Agency reported that at least 600 people were dead or missing and thousands more injured. The report was the first time that North Korea's media have specified a precise death toll from the disaster.
Earlier, international aid groups put the toll at about 300 dead or missing.
KCNA said the heavy rains caused "huge material losses" to the country, "creating unprecedented difficulties in people's living and economic construction."
At least 100,000 people were left homeless and more than 8,000 public buildings were totally or partially destroyed, it said.
More than 1,000 factory or mining buildings were damaged or submerged by the torrential rains, and "lots" of arable lands were washed away, the report said.
The rains also flooded four railroad tunnels and triggered landslides that buried at least 200 sections of track, it said. Thousands of sections of roads and bridges also were destroyed, KCNA said.
The week of severe rainstorms was the country's heaviest rainfall in 40 years.
Jo Yong Nam, head of North Korea's recovery efforts, said the flood damage when calculated in financial terms was 10 times worse than floods in 2006, a pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan reported Thursday.
On Friday, the United Nations said it will launch an appeal this coming week for between US$15 million and US$20 million (euro11 million and euro15 million) to help about 400,000 North Koreans affected by the floods.
U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Margareta Wahlstrom, the deputy emergency relief coordinator, said the appeal will only focus on immediate emergency needs — food, medical care, water and sanitation.
South Korea delivered the first batch of a US$7.5 million (euro5.5 million) emergency aid package to North Korea on Thursday including instant noodles, drinking water, blankets and medicine.
Impoverished North Korea has been widely publicizing the damage while openly seeking outside help — an unusual move seen as a sign of its desperation considering that it is often reluctant to acknowledge any internal problems.