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UN says food supply situation to worsen in NKorea after severe floods and crop losses

UN says food supply situation to worsen in NKorea after severe floods and crop losses

The U.N. warned that North Korea's food situation will worsen after record rains wracked the country's agricultural heartland, and an aid group said Friday the numbers of dead and missing from floods has risen to more than 300.
South Korea, the U.S. and Germany offered aid to help Pyongyang cope with the storms, which have prompted an unusual amount of candor from the usually secretive regime over the scale of the damage.
The North has said a week of storms has destroyed 11 percent of its rice and corn fields.
The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization estimated Friday that would mean 200,000-300,000 tons of cereals may have been lost to floods. It said the situation could change, depending on the weather over the next few months.
Some 87 percent of the country's annual production of cereals is harvested from October to November and the rains arrived at a critical development stage, the agency said. Cereals are the main staple in North Korea.
"The country's already tight food supply situation will deteriorate" with this year's anticipated shortage, the agency said in a statement.
The impoverished North, which has been unable to provide for its people without outside help since a famine that began in the mid-1990s, already faces an annual shortfall of about 1 million tons.
The famine was prompted by mismanagement of the country's economy and the loss of its Soviet benefactor, and was exacerbated by 1995 floods that North Korea said swept away 2 million tons of crops.
This year's floods have already left more than 300 dead or missing, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said Friday.
Terje Lysholm, acting delegation head of the International Red Cross in Pyongyang, said there were 221 deaths confirmed and 82 people still missing _ adding that the casualty toll appeared to be stabilizing and would likely end up around 300 for the total lives lost from the storms.
There were a number of children among the dead, Lysholm said, but no specific figures were available.
The North's official media have reported in great detail on the physical damage to the country's infrastructure. For example, the Korean Central News Agency outlined Friday the destruction to railroads and coal mines.
But the agency has given no specific numbers for human casualties, only saying "hundreds" were dead or missing.
The floods also scarred more than 80,000 homes, affecting about 350,000 people, Lysholm told The Associated Press.
Some of the hardest-hit regions were along the border with South Korea. "We have difficulties accessing these areas because the roads are gone," he said.
Still, the International Red Cross has been able to deliver emergency supplies including kitchen sets, blankets and water purification tablets to about 80 percent of the 16,000 hardest-hit families, and expects to complete distribution over the weekend.
Earlier Friday, South Korea unveiled a 7.1 billion won (US$7.5 million;