From: Reuters, Jack Kim
Published August 19, 2007 02:51 PM

South Korea to Send Flood Aid to North Next Week

SEOUL - South Korea will ship emergency aid supplies worth $7.5 million to North Korea across their militarized border over three days next week in the wake of flooding that left hundreds dead, the South said on Sunday.


The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Friday at least 221 people had been killed and 80 more were missing after some of the worst flooding to hit the communist North.


There is extensive damage to crops and farmland in the country that does not produce enough food to feed itself, even with a good harvest.


"We have offered to transport the emergency supplies by land to make the handover swift, and the North agreed," South Korea's Unification Ministry said in a statement. Two hundred trucks will take the supplies across the border on August 23-25, it said.


North Korea on Saturday asked to postpone until October 2-4 the summit of the two Koreas it had planned to hold this month because of the flooding that also left more than 300,000 people homeless and 11 percent of its paddy and maize fields submerged, buried or swept away.


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The flooding has destroyed hundreds of bridges, thousands of buildings, washed away railroads and knocked over power stations.


More than a week of heavy rain has hit the North hard, but an expert said it was not likely to push the impoverished state back into famine because of increased production in the past few years.


South Korea has offered instant food, water, medicine, blankets and other supplies. The United States, whose relations with North Korea are deeply strained by Pyongyang's pursuit of nuclear weapons, has offered $100,000 to buy aid materials.


Speaking to Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun in New York, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the floods may be the North's worst ever.


"They rival the floods in 1995 that were said to be the worst in history," Ban said. But he stopped short of calling for the removal of U.N. Security Council sanctions imposed after the North's nuclear test last year.


Emergency officials in the South Korean region that borders the North across a river have recovered eight bodies they suspect to be North Korean residents who drowned in flood waters.


"The current of the river at the spot where the bodies have been found is such that they can't have floated from the South," an emergency official said. "They are presumed to be North Koreans, and they are presumed drowned in the floods."


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