ACT Alert Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea No.1/2000: Typhoon Ravages - A Bleak Winter Ahead

from Action by Churches Together International
Published on 25 Sep 2000
Geneva, 25 September 2000
Typhoon Prapiroon, the worst storm in over 30 years, battered the north-east coast of the People's Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK) during the night of 31 August 2000. The storm raged for 27 hours bringing heavy rains and high winds followed by storm surges and high tides which caused extensive flooding and damage to houses, public buildings, crops, communications and infrastructure including roads, bridges, water and sewage systems. 125,000 homes were severely affected, of which 29,000 were completely demolished or swept away, and damage is estimated at more than $6 billion. Several deaths and injuries have also been reported.

The most damage seems to have been wreaked in the North and South Hamgyong provinces in the north-east corner of the country, particularly from Hamhung in South Hamgyong northwards.

The already grim situation has been exacerbated by a second typhoon, Saomai, which passed over the Korean peninsula on 16 September although it appears to have caused no additional major damage.

It is clear that the damage is significant with many flooded rice paddies and areas of maize flattened by the winds. Typhoon Saomai caused some damage to the maize crops which were due to be harvested in the next few weeks. The DPRK government has sounded a new famine alert as more than 1.4 million MT of grain has been lost because of severe drought and typhoons.

Besides the threat of a renewed famine situation, it is estimated that it will take months to rebuild the infrastructure that has been destroyed, in order for food supplies to reach the people. This could have an even more devastating effect than usual in a country which, for some years, has been unable to grow enough food for its people. Thousands of people have been mobilised by the authorities to rebuild destroyed highways but, they are facing a daunting task with very little or no machinery to help them.

ACT members who have been engaged in emergency relief in the DPRK since the mid 90's are looking into ways of addressing some of the immediate and urgent needs of people most affected.

The DPRK suffered a severe drought and other natural disasters between the mid and late 90's which caused an estimated 2 million deaths.

ACT, together with Caritas, the Canadian Food Grains Bank and other NGOs set up the Food Aid Liaison Unit (FALU) in the World Food Program's (WFP) office in Pyongyang in 1996. Among other responsibilities, FALU assists the WFP and the Flood Damage Rehabilitation Committee with the monitoring and coordination of NGO inputs.

Unfortunately, the ACT Appeal ASKP01, issued on 16 February this year for US$ 2.7 million has received a cover of 45% only, limiting ACT's ability to respond effectively to both ongoing as well as new emergency needs.

We therefore strongly urge our donors to provide much needed support to ACT intervention in the DPRK.

Thank you for your attention.

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ACT is a worldwide network of churches and related agencies meeting human need through coordinated emergency response.

The ACT Coordinating Office is based with the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Switzerland.