North Korea blames officials’ inaction for typhoon casualties

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un holds an emergency enlarged meeting of Political Bureau of WPK Central Committee in this undated photo released on July 25, 2020 by North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang

North Korea’s ruling party is calling for the punishment of officials whose failure to follow orders resulted in “dozens of casualties” during typhoons that lashed the Korean peninsula this week, a state newspaper reported on Saturday.

The isolated country has been grappling with torrential rains, floods and typhoons in one of the wettest rainy seasons on record.

Rodong Sinmun, an official party newspaper, reported that officials in Wonsan, an eastern coastal city hit especially hard by Typhoon Maysak, and surrounding Kangwon Province did not implement instructions to secure buildings at risk and prepare for a potential evacuation of residents.

“Dozens of casualties have occurred … because of red tape and tricks among the city and provincial officials who did not accept the party’s guidelines,” the newspaper said.

The party held a meeting to review the officials’ wrongdoings and seek strict legal punishment, the newspaper added.

On Wednesday, state television aired rare live reports of storm surge and torrential rains including from Wonsan, showing a damaged bridge, a flooded square and buildings and a van carrying loudspeakers to broadcast safety warnings.

The Rodong Sinmun separately reported activities to recover destroyed farms in the central county of Unpa, the country’s breadbasket, while soldiers were seen repairing homes, bridges and river banks nationwide.

Concerns are growing about further crop damage and food supplies as the impoverished North braces for another, potentially more powerful typhoon, Haishen, which is on track to batter the peninsula’s east coast starting Monday.

38 North, a U.S. think tank specialised in North Korea, said commercial satellite imagery showed more than 100 military and fishing vessels docked at the eastern port of Sinpo on Friday, much more than the usual 30-40, ahead of the typhoon.

But the shipyard, a major submarine base where submarine-launched ballistic missiles have been tested, appears to have suffered little damage from the recent storms, the think tank said.

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