PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA (BNO NEWS) -- Torrential rains in North Korea on Sunday has resulted in widespread flooding and destroyed scores of buildings, officials said on Tuesday, raising fears of mass casualties after Tropical Storm Khanun already killed nearly 90 people earlier this month.
Approximately 442 millimeters (17.4 inches) of rain was recorded in Pakchon County of North Phyongan Province during a 24 hour period from 6 a.m. local time on Sunday, making it the worst-hit area. Extreme rainfall was also recorded in other parts of the country, including the capital Pyongyang.
Images and video footage released by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) showed residents stranded on roofs and in small boats as severe floods reached up to the roofs of houses. Residents in Anju City, South Phyongan province, could be seen swimming through floodwaters while others tried to recover items from flooded buildings.
"The water along the brook hit the bottom of my house, leaving its walls collapsed and pillars pulled down," 70-year-old Choe Sun Gwan told KCNA as he stood in front of his destroyed house in Onchon County of South Phyongan province. "I have lived here for 23 years. I experienced a flood in 1994. At that time I dammed the water, but it is impossible this time. I've never seen this severe flood for 23 years."
North Korea was already hit hard by tropical storm Khanun earlier this month, killing at least 88 people and leaving nearly 62,900 people homeless. The storm and the heavy rains in its aftermath destroyed more than 5,000 buildings, more than 300 public buildings, and inundated some 12,000 houses in addition to farmland. Railways, breakwaters, and electric supply and communication networks were also destroyed.
The United Nations (UN) office in Pyongyang said Sunday's rain has worsened the flood situation and forced the North Korean government to launch rescue operations to evacuate affected people. "In all the flood-affected counties, the disaster impacts the livelihood and economic well-being of the people," the office said on Monday.
Although the North Korean government has not yet released figures on damage and casualties, state-run media confirmed Tuesday that Sunday's rainfall destroyed railways, roads, bridges and 'many' dwelling houses. It also said many residents in the affected people have been left homeless.
"Flooding was so rough in Junhyok-ri, Kaechon City that lifeboats could hardly reach the victims," KCNA said in a brief news report on Monday, describing the damage as 'big'. "Helicopters flew to the areas to rescue the flood victims on Monday. Urgent government relief steps are being taken for inhabitants in flood-stricken areas."
To deal with the disaster, the North Korean government has asked assistance from resident UN agencies, the Red Cross, and European Union Program Support Units. The UN said the North Korean government also supported two inter-agency assessment missions in South Pyongan and Kangwon provinces on Tuesday.
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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