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S. Korea offers N. Korea flood aid
by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) Aug 3, 2011

South Korea offered aid worth 5 billion won ($4.7 million) to flood-hit North Korea on Wednesday, its first such proposal since Pyongyang's deadly island attack last November sent relations into deep freeze.

The North, which even in normal times struggles to feed its people, has reported dozens of casualties, thousands homeless and large areas of farmland flooded following a storm and torrential rain this summer.

The South's offer came amid signs of an easing of high cross-border tensions. Nuclear negotiators from the two sides held rare talks last month on the sidelines of a regional security meeting in Bali.

Seoul's unification ministry said the offer of medicine and daily necessities was made through the South's Red Cross. If the North accepted it, talks would be held on shipping arrangements across the tense border.

Ministry officials said the new aid package would not include rice and cement.

Official media in the communist state has said a tropical storm and heavy rain in June and July left dozens either dead, injured or missing, destroyed 2,900 homes and flooded more than 60,000 hectares (148,200 acres) of farmland.

Floods are common in North Korea, mainly because of its lack of disaster-control infrastructure and severe deforestation of hillsides.

Ties have been icy since the South accused its neighbour of sinking a warship in March 2010 with the loss of 46 lives.

Despite that incident, for which the North denied responsibility, the South in September 2010 promised a 10 billion won flood aid package.

But it suspended shipments after the North killed four South Koreans in a bombardment of a border island last November.

A global relief agency said separately it has allocated more than $590,000 to help the flood victims.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said on its website it has released more than 450,000 Swiss Francs to help over 15,000 people through the North's Red Cross.

The unification ministry, which must by law authorise all contacts with the North, has also given the go-ahead for a private group to deliver flour aid.

The Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation has sent six members across the border to check that shipments are being delivered to needy children and not diverted to the military.

The council so far has delivered 600 tonnes of flour and plans to send a total 2,500 tonnes of flour by the end of August.

The South in 2008 stopped an annual government shipment of 400,000 tonnes of rice to its impoverished neighbour as relations began to sour.

Authorities allowed some civilian groups to keep sending aid, but suspended approval of flour shipments after the island attack.

The reconciliation council's initial shipment on July 26 was the first flour aid since the suspension.

Seoul officials believe flour can easily be diverted to the North's powerful military unless deliveries are monitored.

The North has relied on international aid to help feed its people since a famine in the 1990s killed hundreds of thousands. This year it asked the United States and other nations for food assistance.

United Nations agencies estimate that six million people there are in urgent need of food.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, quoted by Yonhap news agency from New York, appealed Tuesday for more food help.

"The UN views North Korea's food conditions as being at a serious level and hopes for the international community's active contributions," he said.

Ban also, however, said that the United States and North Korea remain far apart after exploratory talks on Pyongyang's nuclear disarmament, but conceded that both sides are trying to narrow the gap.

North Korea's first vice foreign minister Kim Kye-Gwan held talks in New York with US officials last Thursday and Friday as part of diplomatic efforts to restart long-stalled six-nation nuclear negotiations.

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N. Korea PM inspects flooded region: state media
Seoul (AFP) Aug 2, 2011 - North Korea's prime minister has inspected flood-hit areas, state media said Tuesday, a day after it reported dozens of casualties and widespread damage.

Premier Choe Yong-Rim inspected areas of South Hwanghae province in the country's southwest and held a meeting on efforts to repair the damage, the official KCNA news agency said.

He underscored the need to get people's livelihoods in afflicted areas back to normal as soon as possible, it said, without giving the date of the visit.

The agency said Monday that a tropical storm and heavy rain over the past two months had left dozens dead, injured or missing and destroyed 2,900 homes.

Some 8,000 homeless were living in makeshift buildings, it said.

From late June to mid-July, nearly 60,000 hectares (148,200 acres) of farmland was submerged or washed away, raising concerns about this year's grain harvest, it said.

North Korea has relied heavily on international aid to feed its 24 million people since natural disasters and mismanagement sparked a 1990s famine in which hundreds of thousands died.

After decades of deforestation to create land for arable farming and provide firewood, the impoverished North is particularly vulnerable to flooding. In 2007 it reported at least 600 dead or missing due to such conditions.

earlier related report
Toll from two Philippine storms rises to 70
Manila (AFP) Aug 2, 2011 - The combined death toll from Tropical Storm Nock-ten and Typhoon Muifa in the Philippines has risen to 70, with threats of yet another storm in the rain-battered country, the government said Tuesday.

The toll, previously at 54, rose as two children were reported killed by a landslide at a quarry on the central island of Bohol on Sunday and another 14 victims were logged from Nock-ten, which hit last month.

A total of 178 passengers and crew were rescued from a listing ship off the central port of Iloilo on Sunday, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said.

Muifa, named after a Chinese flower, stayed offshore on the Philippine Sea east of the main island of Luzon, but caused heavy rains and rough coastal waters. On Thursday it tipped over a boat on Manila Bay, causing two fishpond workers on board to drown.

Nock-ten, which struck Luzon a few days earlier, left 66 people dead and 17 others missing, according to the council's updated toll.

Most Manila schools declared a holiday Tuesday as another weather disturbance loomed over Luzon's west coast with the potential to develop into a storm, prompting the state weather service to forecast heavy rain and possible flooding.

An average of 20 storms and typhoons, many of them deadly, hit the Philippines annually. Nock-ten, named after a Laotian bird, was the 10th this year, and Muifa the 11th.

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N. Korea storm, rains 'kill dozens': state media
Seoul (AFP) Aug 1, 2011
A storm and heavy rains in North Korea over the last two months have left dozens of people dead, injured or missing, while thousands more are homeless, state media said on Monday. The impoverished communist state was hit by a tropical storm in June and heavy rains last month which together destroyed 2,900 homes, leaving about 8,000 people with nowhere to live, the official Korean Central New ... read more

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