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Death toll from Typhoon Bolaven in North Korea reaches 59

PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA (BNO NEWS) -- The death toll as a result of Typhoon Bolaven, which made landfall in North Korea late last month, has risen to at least 59 while dozens more remain missing, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said on Wednesday.

Bolaven made landfall in North Korea on August 28 with torrential rains and maximum sustained winds of 90 kilometers (55.9 miles) per hour and gusts up to 129.6 kilometers (80 miles) per hour, according to Choe Tong Hwan, the director of the North Korean Hydro-meteorological Management Office in North Hwanghae province.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Monday said the death toll had risen to at least 48, but the IFRC said in an information bulletin on Wednesday that it had been informed by the North Korean government that 59 people were killed. At least 50 people are still missing.

"As the rainy season is still unfolding, with reports of more damage coming every day, the Red Cross Society of Democratic People's Republic of Korea, together with the IFRC, are considering requesting funds from IFRC's disaster relief emergency fund (DREF) in the coming days," the bulletin said, referring to North Korea by its official name.

The new figures provided by the North Korean government indicate the worst-hit region is South Hamgyong province, where at least 48 people were killed and 45 others remain missing. The severe weather in the province also destroyed 2,405 houses and flooded or damaged more than 1,500 houses.

At least eight people were killed in neighboring South Phyongan province, where 714 houses were destroyed and more than 100 others were either flooded or damaged. Two people were killed and two others remain missing in North Hamgyong province while one person died and three others remain missing in Ryanggang province.

KCNA previously reported that more than 21,180 people were left homeless by Bolaven, but the new figures released through IFRC indicate that number could rise significantly. The official news agency's initial estimate said 6,700 houses were destroyed, flooded or damaged by the typhoon, but the new figures increase that number by more than 1,250 houses.

With international journalists permanently banned from most of the reclusive state, actual footage from the disaster has only been made public through state-run media, and information is difficult to verify. Footage released last week showed scores of uprooted trees, partially damaged buildings, and roads washed away by floods.

North Korea has been hit hard by floods this year, killing hundreds of people and leaving nearly a quarter of a million people homeless. Tropical storm Khanun hit in July and was followed by torrential rains just days later, killing at least 169 people and leaving more than 400 others missing.

The North estimated some 8,600 houses were destroyed by the severe weather in July while nearly 44,000 houses were flooded, leaving more than 212,200 people homeless and forcing the government to request international assistance. Torrential rains hit the impoverished nation again between August 17 and August 20, killing six people and destroying hundreds of buildings.

In response to Bolaven, which was one of the most powerful storms to strike the Korean Peninsula in recent years, the North Korean Red Cross and the IFRC have released 2,515 emergency relief kits, including quilts with covers, cooking sets, plastic sheets, jerry cans, hygiene kits and water purification tablets, which were distributed to more than 11,600 people in three affected provinces.

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