UN: North Korea seeks immediate food aid after floods

A handout photo from the Red Cross dated 24 July, 2012 shows North Korean residents standing next to a road as flood water pours into a caved-in area in Songchon county, South Pyongan Province The floods have sparked fresh concern over North Korea's struggle to feed its people

The United Nations says North Korea has requested immediate food aid after devastating floods last month.

UN officials in Pyongyang said the need for aid was urgent after visiting flood-hit parts of the country to assess damage.

North Korea state media said that at least 119 people died and tens of thousands were left homeless.

Damage to infrastructure and farmland has affected the country's already dire food shortage problem.

The most badly affected areas are Anju city and Songchon County in South Phyongan Province, and Chonnae County in Kangwon Province, said the UN.

Residents in these areas are in urgent need of food supplies, as well as clean water, as wells have been contaminated by sewage during the floods.

A UN spokesman in New York confirmed that the North Korean government has asked the UN to release emergency supplies such as food and fuel.

Some international aid groups have already begun gathering supplies and donations. On Thursday, the Red Cross said it would allocate more than $300,000 (£193,000) for flood victims.

Recent images from Anju taken by state news agency KCNA showed houses underwater, flooded agricultural land and people sheltering in the upper stories of buildings.

Kim Kwang-dok, vice-chairman of the Anju City People's Committee, told the Associated Press news agency that the flooding was the worst in the city's history.

The floods - which followed a severe drought earlier this year - have sparked fresh concern over North Korea's struggle to feed its people, says the BBC's Lucy Williamson in Seoul.

North Korea relies on food aid because it cannot grow enough food to feed its people. Famine in the mid-1990s is believed to have killed hundreds of thousands of people.

A UN report released last month estimated that two-thirds of North Korea's 24m population suffer from a chronic shortage of food.

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