Kim visits North Korea flood zone, orders shelter, food aid

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Women walk with umbrellas during torrential rains, Wednesday, August 5, 2020, in Pyongyang. North Korea says torrential rains have lashed the country, prompting outside worries about possible big damages in the impoverished country. (AP Photo/Cha Song Ho)

SEOUL – Leader Kim Jong Un visited parts of southern North Korea where days of torrential rains have flooded hundreds of houses and vast areas of agricultural land, state media reported Friday.

It’s rare for Kim to visit a flood-stricken site. The last time state media reported such a visit was in September 2015, when he inspected recovery work at a flood-hit northeast city, according to Seoul’s Unification Ministry.

Kim’s latest visit could be seen an effort to bolster an image of a leader caring about public livelihoods at a time when the North’s economic woes are believed to have worsened due to the coronavirus pandemic. It forced North Korea to close its border with China, its biggest trading partner, in January. Extensive flooding would only add to the North’s economic troubles.

The Korean Central News Agency said Friday Kim inspected a town in North Hwanghae province where a water levee gave way following a rainstorm.

The agency said the levee break left more than 730 single-floored houses and 600-odd hectares (1,480 acres) of rice field inundated and 179 housing blocks destroyed in Unpha County. KCNA said no casualties have been reported.

KCNA said Kim visited the scene and ordered shelters to be arranged for displaced people and residents to be supplied with food grain from his own reserves.

Kim also said officials will be dispatched to direct works to build 800 model houses in the town and that the army will be mobilized to rebuild roads and other infrastructure there with local residents.

North Korea often suffers heavy damage from summer rains due to poor drainage, deforestation and dilapidated infrastructure. North Hwanghae province is a main agricultural region in North Korea.