Heavy rains batter North Korea: state media



SEOUL (AFP) – Torrential rain battered North Korea's capital and other regions over the weekend, state media said on Sunday amid concerns that flooding may aggravate the country's food shortages.

The official Korean Central News Agency said up to 287 millimetres (11.5 inches) of rain fell in Pyongyang and the provinces of South Phyongan and South Hamgyong between Friday and Saturday.

But the agency gave no immediate damage report.

The North, after decades of deforestation, is particularly vulnerable to flooding, which worsens chronic food shortages by washing away crops.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency, citing an unnamed intelligence official, said the latest torrential rain could damage the North's farmland and force the communist regime to call for outside food assistance.

"It's hard to make accurate predictions, but chances are high that North Korea has suffered flood damage given its weak capability of maintaining and controlling the flooding," the official told Yonhap.

"In that case, the food crisis can worsen so that North Korea cannot but request the international community for assistance."

North Korea in 2007 reported at least 600 people dead or missing following devastating floods that caused huge damage to all sectors of the economy.

A Seoul government report said this month the North was expected to run short of up to 840,000 tons of food this year.