Heavy rain in North Korea killed 40 people, stranded thousands in flash floods and caused `massive’ damage on the weekend, the International Federation of the Red Cross quoted North Korean media as saying.
No fewer than 1,000 people were forced from their homes or otherwise affected by the floods, which hit the northeastern city of Rajin, near the border with Russia and China.
Hler Gudjonsson, a spokesman for the Red Cross in Beijing said to flooding took place on Saturday and Sunday.
Rajin is the capital of the Rason Special Economic Zone in North Hamgyong Province.
“It rained really hard, and fast. On Saturday morning the city was flooded. Cars were wading through water like boats,” a source who was in area when it flooded said.
It was not clear what impact the rain would have in a country that said in June it was suffering from its worst drought in a century.
South Korea said in July some rain had fallen in the North, easing conditions.
North Korean state media said there had been 40 `casualties’ and `massive’ damage after 250 mm (9.5 inches) of rain fell over the weekend.
About 155mm (6 inches) fell in just three hours on Saturday, it said.
Following the downpour, authorities in neighbouring China worked with North Korean border officials to evacuate 484 Chinese tourists, according to a Chinese online medium.
The tourists were stranded when part of the sole road to the border was washed away. Many of the tourists were at a trade fair in Rajin.
Chinese authorities sent dump trucks, forklifts and other heavy equipment to Rajin to help with relief efforts, the online medium said, adding that all of the tourists were safe.
Calls to government offices in the neighbouring Chinese city of Hunchun went unanswered.
The heavy weather was associated with a system surrounding Typhoon Goni, which struck the Philippines on Saturday, killing four people.
Although North Korea was not directly hit by Goni, it is prone to flooding.
High ground is often cultivated meaning there is little forest cover to soak up rain, so it runs off into villages and towns below, and often causes landslides.
In early August, torrential rain in the same area killed 21 people and affected 3,400, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
The source in the area said farm land was also flooded.
“Fields were completely filled with water. Rice paddies just looked like square lakes,” said the source, who declined to be identified.