Thursday, August 03, 2006

10,000 North Koreans dead or missing

North Korea's Red Cross has rejected an offer from its South Korean counterpart for aid to flood victims, a South Korean official said Wednesday, as an aid group claimed the disaster left about 10,000 people dead or missing.

North Korea "expressed thanks for Seoul's offer" but said "it will handle the recovery efforts from recent floods by itself," a senior North Korean Red Cross official said, according to the South Korean Red Cross.

North Korea's official media has said the disaster caused hundreds of casualties and cut off roads, bridges, railroads and communications. However, the Seoul-based Good Friends group, an aid organization for North Korean refugees, said in a statement Wednesday about 10,000 people were dead or missing and some 1.5 million people were left homeless from the floods.

Lee Seung-yong, the group's project coordinator, declined to identify sources for the information, but previous reports of activities inside North Korea from the same group have later been confirmed.

The flooding washed away some 245,000 acres of farmland, putting further strains on the North's ability to feed its 23 million people.

[Associated Press]

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