PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA (BNO NEWS) -- The death toll after tropical storm Khanun hit southern parts of North Korea earlier this month has reached at least 88, more than ten times as much as previously reported, according to state-run media late Saturday. Nearly 63,000 people have been left homeless.
Khanun became a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds near 40 miles (64 kilometers) per hour on July 16 as it was centered far east of the Ryukyu Islands. It then moved to the northwest, passing north of the Kadena Air Base on the islands before moving towards South Korea where it made landfall on July 19. It weakened quickly over North Korea before Khanun's remnants dissipated over China.
The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Wednesday said the death toll stood at eight, but it dramatically increased that number to 88 on late Saturday. "The biggest human losses were reported in Sinyang and Songchon counties of South Phyongan Province," a report from the news agency said, adding that at least 134 people were injured.
More than 5,000 houses were destroyed or damaged by the storm while some 12,000 houses were inundated, leaving nearly 62,900 people homeless. It also destroyed more than 300 public buildings, including ten educational and healthcare facilities and about 60 factory buildings.
Additionally, KCNA reported, about 4,800 hectares (11,861 acres) of cropland was washed away by the storm and the torrential rains in its aftermath. Some 92 kilometers (35 miles) of roads have been destroyed in nearly 1,200 locations, adding to previous reports that the floods also destroyed railways, breakwaters, and electric supply and communications networks.
During the height of tropical storm Khanun, some of the worst-hit areas saw up to 200 millimeters (7.8 inches) of rain.
In South Korea, Khanun also caused flooding, power outages, and affected major transportation systems. One fatality was reported in North Gyeongsang province when the wall of a home collapsed, officials said. Scattered showers and thunderstorms further affected some areas of northeastern China on July 20, causing no known casualties. Scattered showers also moved into Khabarovsk Krai in Russia.
In August 2011, at least ten people were killed when Typhoon Muifa destroyed hundreds of houses in the southern region of North Korea. It followed severe flooding triggered by record rainfall in the country just a month earlier, killing at least 30 people in North Korea and 70 people in South Korea.
North Korean state-run media also reported that an unknown number of people were killed in June 2011 when Severe Tropical Storm Meari made landfall in western areas of North Korea. KCNA reported that heavy rain and strong winds destroyed more than 160 blocks of homes, but no official death toll was released.
KCNA's reporting of the natural disasters last year was heavily criticized after it distributed a photo which appeared to have been digitally altered to make the disaster look worse than it may have been. North Korean state-run media normally keeps quiet or downplays problems in the country, and experts believe the North's move might have been an attempt to receive more international aid.
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