Flooding forces North Korea to evacuate 5,000


SEOUL, South Korea — Torrential downpours caused the rain-swollen Yalu River on the North KoreaChina
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

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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