08/28/2006, 00.00
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Flood death toll in north could be 900

This was stated by South Korean parliamentary sources. Seoul has offered Pyongyang 200 million euros to tackle damages caused by the August rains.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The floors that struck North Korea in August may have claimed between 800 and 900 lives, said the aide of a South Korean MP, citing as a source the country's main spy agency.

Park Ung-seo, an aide to Republican Chung Hyung-keun, said the National Intelligence Agency had supplied the information to the parliamentary intelligence committee.

The estimate is in line with figures supplied by a newspaper in Japan that backs the regime of Kim Jong-il. At the beginning of the month, this newspaper cited 549 dead and 295 missing. But the statistics differ drastically from those presented by the North Korean Red Cross. Representatives of the humanitarian organisation put the toll at 150 dead or missing when they met their South Korean counterparts.

North Korea's official media said "hundreds" died in the floods, while some non-governmental organizations put the death toll at "tens of thousands".

North Korea is one of the most reclusive regimes in the world as regards the dissemination of news abroad and it does not allow independent trips in its territory, not even for the relatively few humanitarian workers who live within its borders. It is thus always very difficult to come up with credible estimates when catastrophes take place.

The South Korean government has offered an aid package worth 240 billion won [around 200 million euros] notwithstanding its stated intention to suspend all humanitarian aid following missile tests carried out by Pyongyang on 4 July.

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