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Home / Articles / News / World /  Flooding forces North Korea to evacuate 5,000
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Monday, August 23,2010

Flooding forces North Korea to evacuate 5,000

By McClatchy-Tribune News Service

SEOUL, South Korea — Torrential downpours caused the rain-swollen Yalu River on the North Korea-China border to overflow Sunday, prompting the evacuation of 5,000 North Koreans who remained "at the crossroads of life and death," according to state-run news media there.

In Sinuiju, a North Korean riverside town across from the Chinese city of Dandong, flash floods submerged houses and farms and paralyzed roads as the military was deployed to aid survivors, according to Pyongyang's Korean Central News Agency.

Storms, flooding and mudslides have lashed parts of China for the last week, causing widespread death and forcing hundreds of thousands of residents to flee to higher ground.

After heavy rains pelted the border region late Saturday with nearly a foot of precipitation, the Yalu overflowed. North Korean leader Kim Jong Il sent in air force and navy units to rescue residents of the northwestern city, KCNA said.

Photographs and video released by the agency showed a nearly submerged Sinuiju and surrounding villages as isolated residents awaited rescue by military helicopters.

Authorities built a dike around low-lying downtown Sinuiju, but in 1995 a similar dike was breached and the city was flooded, according to the Daily NK newspaper.

"As a result, the river swelled in a minute, leaving even Sinuiju City inundated. This paralyzed traffic and did damage to many objects," KCNA said. "The flood victims were at a loss on the rooftops of buildings and hills."

In a secretive society where news coverage of internal events is severely limited, the prompt release of images showing suffering citizens is North Korea's way of calling for international aid, analysts say.

But South Korean officials said they had yet to decide whether to send any. Tensions have been high since a South Korean navy ship sank in March, killing 46 crewmen. A South Korean investigation blamed a North Korean torpedo; the North denies firing one.

On the Chinese side of the Yalu, known as the Amnok in North Korea, four people died when rising waters swept them away. Dozens of townships were inundated after weekend floodwaters punctured a dike between the river and an economic development zone, according to Chinese state media.

Chinese authorities said they evacuated 253,000 people in Liaoning province because of flooding around the Yalu. More than 100 people were rescued by helicopter.

By Saturday night, the water levels in Dandong rose to the highest level in a decade.

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(c) 2010, Los Angeles Times.

Visit the Los Angeles Times on the Internet at http://www.latimes.com/.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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