Red Cross offers North $8M flood aid

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Red Cross offers North $8M flood aid

South Korea’s Red Cross offered 10 billion won ($8.4 million) worth of flood aid to North Korea yesterday, a government official said - a gesture that may help alleviate heightened tension on the Korean Peninsula.

The aid will include medical kits, food and other emergency supplies, Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung told reporters, citing the Red Cross message sent to an inter-Korean office in the North Korean border town of Kaesong earlier Tuesday.

North Korea, which mobilized its air force earlier this month to save people besieged by surging water in areas bordering China, has yet to reply to the offer, Chun said.

The aid, if accepted, could open room for improvement in inter-Korean ties, which have frayed since South Korea blamed North Korea in May for the sinking of a warship. Pyongyang denies involvement in the March 26 incident that killed 46 sailors.

The Red Cross, which is Seoul’s main channel for humanitarian cooperation with North Korea, had already proposed to North Korea that it would send flood aid, though it did not give specific figures.

Chun said the Red Cross has determined 10 billion won to be “appropriate” in helping North Korea tackle the flood damage.

In 2006, 86.3 billion won worth of flood aid was shipped from South Korea to North Korea, and 58.9 billion won the following year, according to the Unification Ministry.

North Korea is vulnerable to natural disasters because of severe deforestation and its lack of investment in disaster control.

According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, a flash flood caused by heavy rains recently killed 14 people and prompted tens of thousands of others to evacuate a North Korean province bordering China.

A Seoul-based relief group, Good Friends, put the number of deaths at 32 with 38 others missing.

The August rains that pounded the border area between China and North Korea deluged crop fields, houses and public buildings in the North’s border town of Sinuiju, according to television footage released earlier in the month by Pyongyang.

China has reportedly sent flood aid to North Korea, according to the North’s official media.

South Korea has cut off almost all trade with and assistance to North Korea since a multinational probe found Pyongyang responsible for the sinking of the warship in March.


Yonhap

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