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Heavy rain, COVID-19 trouble NK

(Rodong Sinmun-Yonhap)
(Rodong Sinmun-Yonhap)

Record-breaking torrential rain and the COVID-19 pandemic are threatening North Korea, which has already been troubled by years of international economic sanctions.

The country’s state broadcaster said Tuesday that heavy rain will continue in most regions from Monday night through Thursday morning, with special warnings issued in South and North Pyongan, South and North Hwanghae provinces; Kaesong; southern Jagang Province and certain inland areas of Gangwon Province.

Lesser-degree warnings of heavy rainfall have been issued on other parts of the country, according to the Korean Central Broadcasting Station.

“Thorough measures are necessary to prevent disasters such as flooding, overflowing of reservoirs and landslides due to torrential rain and strong winds,” the broadcaster said.

The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North’s Workers’ Party, also called for preparatory measures to minimize damage from torrential rain across the country.

The newspaper used four pages of its Tuesday issue to report on efforts to prevent overflowing from rivers, improve drainage, reinforce dikes, better drain farms and guarantee a sufficient electricity supply for water pumps.

People should make sure that mineral residue and polluted water from coal mines and other mining areas do not flow into the rivers; and must revamp water and sewage pipes to prevent flooding in the roads and residential areas, the Rodong added.

Heavy monsoon rain often deals a blow to agriculture. The North experienced a food shortage due to Typhoon Lingling in early September last year.

Pyongyang’s mouthpieces are also calling for a maximum emergency posture to contain COVID-19.

In an editorial titled “We demand a high level of awareness and strict compliance,” the Rodong urged North Koreans to absolutely obey the instructions of the government’s emergency disease prevention command as the work to contain the virus is “directly linked to national security and the people’s lives.”

Pyongyang confirmed that a defector from Kaesong returned to the North last month, initially saying he may have brought COVID-19 from the South, convened an extended emergency meeting of its Politburo, and issued a special warning for the pandemic.

North Korea has been suffering from a lack of commodities since it closed its border with China in late January for fear of the pandemic.

The North’s trade volume with China tumbled to $96.8 million last month, down 57 percent compared to a year earlier.

By Kim So-hyun (