SEOUL, July 30: Widespread flooding in North Korea appeared to worsen on Monday after 24 hours of torrential rain hit the impoverished state which even in times of good harvest is unable to feed itself.

The floods follow a period of drought and are certain to lift food prices which have been rising sharply. According to defectors contacted by Reuters in neighbouring South Korea, rice prices have already risen beyond the reach of ordinary households.“A heavy downpour on the 29th July, coupled with heavy thunderstorms, have worsened the flood situation for DPRK (North Korea),” the United Nations North Korea office reported.

North Korea's official KCNA news agency said 400mm of rain had fallen in the 24 hours to Monday morning.

This comes on top of widespread flooding which North Korea says from July 18 to 25 killed 88 people, left tens of thousands homeless and damaged agricultural areas.

“The flooding will result in more hikes in rice prices until the autumn harvest and which were already seen because of the massive drought,” Kwon Tae-jin, a senior researcher at Korea Rural Economic Institute, told Reuters.

“It is simply making things worse,” he said.

The country has become increasingly prone to flooding because of widespread deforestation.

Defectors said the rice price increase has been worsened by hoarding by middlemen hoping to cash in on economic reforms which the government of new leader Kim Jong-un is reported to be planning.—Reuters

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