North Korea’s Rason area suffers significant damage from flooding

High levels of water in the downstream area of the Tumen River. Image: Daily NK

The Tumen River has flooded due to intense rains in the Rajin-Sonbong area in north-eastern North Hamgyong Province, submerging houses in the area, according to local sources.

Around 500 houses in the area near Wonjong Village have been submerged and there are also reports of fatalities, although the exact number has not been ascertained.

“Intense rains have caused a lot of damage in North Hamgyong Province,” a source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK. “Lots of houses in the Rason area have been damaged significantly, and most of the farm fields are submerged, so it’s not clear whether the farmers will be able to harvest in the fall.”

An additional source in the region also noted that he had seen submerged farm land and that a lot of the barley stalks were strewn on the ground. “Other areas are in a similar condition, I’ve heard,” he said. “Farmers are saying that the barley harvest this year is ruined.”

Most residents of Songbon County are farmers. If the damage from the intense rains persist, this could cause significant issues.

Korea Central TV (KCTV) reported on the morning of August 17 that a special flood warning had been issued from Namyang Workers Zone in Onsong County and the downstream area of the Tumen River. The warning was expanded and upgraded to a ‘Level One Flood Warning’ issued for the same area on August 16.

On August 16, KCTV reported that if the water levels in Wonjong exceed 5.5 meters, 198,000 square meters of farm land on the Uam Farm at the mouth of the Tumen River would become submerged. On August 17, KCTV upgraded the warning to a “special warning” and said that the water level at Wonjong at 7 AM was 7.73 meters.

The downstream area of the Tumen River experienced significant rainfall from tropical storms Francisco, Lekima, and Krosa. According to North Korean climate data from South Korea’s meteorological agency, 331 mm of rain fell in Sonbong County from August 7 to August 16, a period of nine days.

Around 100 rescue workers from China were deployed to North Korea to help clear the damage to homes in the area, a separate source in North Hamgyong Province reported.

“The Chinese gave us electricity and a lot of rice,” he said. “Officials from the Wonjong-ri Customs office are crossing back and forth into China freely and there are still provisions flowing in from China. It looks like they’re providing aid to us.”

The price of rice in Songbon on August 19 was 4,300 KPW, which has remained unchanged despite the flooding. As of August 20, rice in the area is even cheaper than rice in Pyongyang (4,550 KPW), Sinuiju (4,690 KPW), Hyesan (5,000 KPW).

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping may have had discussions over civilian aid over the past six months during their meetings. The flooding in North Korea appears to be a pretext for China to send massive amounts of humanitarian aid to North Korea.

Japan’s Asahi Shimbun reported through a South Korean government source and the North Korea and Chinese trade ministries on August 20 that the Chinese government had decided to send 800,000 tons of rice to North Korea following Xi’s visit to North Korea in June and that the rice would soon arrive by boat.