North Korea: floods kill 549, 295 missing

The heavy rains flooded 39,680 acres (16,000 hectares) of farmland with 8,650 acres (3,500 hectares) washed away, putting a further strain on the impoverished communist country's ability to feed its 23 million people.

North Korea's official media has previously reported that "hundreds" were killed in the disaster, without giving specifics, the AP reports.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said last week the floods killed at least 151 people and left 29 missing, based on government-provided figures. A South Korean activist group has claimed as many as 10,000 dead and missing, declining to give its source for the information.

North Korea has told international aid groups operating in the capital of Pyongyang that it doesn't want them to launch an emergency appeal on its behalf, the AP reports.

In an indication of the scope of the tragedy, however, a North Korean official said last week that the country was in urgent need of food and would accept aid from South Korea, the AP reports.

Seoul has refused to discuss its regular humanitarian aid to the North after Pyongyang launched a barrage of missiles last month that sparked international condemnation and raised international tensions.

However, the South Korean government has now said it would consider contributing to non-governmental aid shipments for the flood victims amid growing calls at home to the impoverished North.

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