North Korea braces for Typhoon Soulik

Devastating floods ravaged the northeast region of North Korea in 2016 as a consequence of Typhoon Lionrock. Image: Daily NK

As the monsoon season’s 19th typhoon Soulik bears down on the Korean Peninsula, the South Korean government said Thursday that it has been preparing emergency measures to minimize potential damage from the storm, which hit the southwestern region earlier in the day and is forecast to hit other parts of the nation soon.

The storm is expected to dump 100-250 mm of rain and damaging winds on North Korea, whose government has been scrambling to prepare for the storm and mitigate the fallout.

According to multiple sources across the country, the North Korean authorities have been sending early warning messages to residents and making preparations for damage control.

“The authorities have told us that a powerful typhoon is expected to hit us today and tomorrow. We’ve been ordered to put all our efforts into preparedness to mitigate landslides, flooding of houses and farmland, and crop damage,” a source in North Pyongan Province told Daily NK on August 23.

“They’ve been referring to the typhoon and subsequent flooding that hit us two years ago.’

Typhoon Lionrock inflicted significant damage on North Korea, disproportionately affecting the neglected regions of North Hamgyong Province and Ryanggang Province. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a report that more than 35,500 homes were damaged and two-thirds of them completely destroyed, with 133 dead and 107,000 people displaced by the floods. However, the death toll and the number of people reported missing were based on North Korean government data, drawing into question its accuracy.

Currently, the source continued, to prepare for winds of up to 40 meters per second the North Korean government is underscoring the importance of action to prevent damage to roadside trees and buildings. Residents have been ordered to tie down residential roofs to prevent them from blowing away, while farm workers are reinforcing embankments to prevent the flooding of waterways.

In North and South Hwanghae provinces where residents have experienced typhoons and their devastating aftermath numerous times, “people have started conducting river and paddy drainage under the direction of the relevant cadres, and will continue for the duration of the storm,” a source in South Hwanghae Province reported.

He added that cadres, who have been recently reprimanded for their inadequacies in carrying out orders from Kim Jong Un, were the first to arrive at work sites, later to be joined by shock troops and the Socialist Women’s Union of Korea.

“Emergency warnings and orders were announced this morning. Road, water, and railway operations will be suspended today and tomorrow,” a source in Ryanggang Province said.

“Construction projects in Samjiyon have been suspended as well because the required materials have to come up from North and South Pyongan provinces and they’re worried that the roads will be flooded.”

In other areas, insufficient resources have left residents in the area woefully unprepared.

“The corn crops won’t be able to withstand the onslaught of probable high winds. There was a directive to stake piles around the fields and to cover the fabric, but the construction couldn’t be finished due to the lack of materials. How are you supposed to tie things down when you don’t even have rope?” a source in North Hamgyong Province reported.