Sinuiju Damaged by Floods

A submerged North Korean city highlights failings in the country's infrastructure.
2010-08-25
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This picture released by North Korea's Central News Agency on Aug. 21 shows houses submerged in floodwaters near Sinuiju.
This picture released by North Korea's Central News Agency on Aug. 21 shows houses submerged in floodwaters near Sinuiju.
AFP

SEOUL—Life is returning to normal on the Chinese side of the Yalu River following the worst flooding in a century, while North Koreans reported on their side that Sinuiju city has disappeared up to the eaves.

"The waters rose suddenly, before anything could be done, and the Sinuiju neighborhoods of Sangdan, Hadan, Daji, as well as Seoho village in Uiju county, and the islands of Ojok and Maksa were completely covered by the overflowing Yalu," the official [North] Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

"One-story buildings are completely under water, and only the roofs are visible," the agency said, but gave no details of casualties.

It said water coming downstream from China, flowing at a rate of over 5,300 cubic meters per second, "overwhelmed the Yalu River levees on the North Korean side and flooded downtown Sinuiju, paralyzing traffic and resulting in significant damage.”

Most of Sinuiju was underwater, it said.

A North Korean man living on the Chinese side of the river in the city of Dandong said his sibling in Sinuiju had told him by phone that a large part of the city was flooded.

"That includes the customs office, and most one-story buildings in downtown Sinuiju are underwater," said the man, identified by a pseudonym Jang.

Dandong protected

By contrast, Dandong was protected by flood levees that protected most of the city, even though the river rose by up to two meters above its normal level, he added.

Levees were built both in Dandong and in Sinuiju during the 1932-45 Japanese occupation of northeastern China, or Manchuria.

As Dandong was further developed, though, its aging levees were preserved, reinforced, and maintained, while in Sinuiju many of the levees were removed, leaving the city vulnerable.

On Aug. 20, residents of Dandong apartments and guests of hotels located outside the areas shielded by the levees were evacuated downtown.

By the morning of Aug. 23, vehicular and pedestrian traffic was partially resumed in Dandong.

Dandong lies about three hours' drive from Shenyang, and is one of the few gateways into North Korea, connected by road and rail to the city of Sinuiju by the Sino-Korea Friendship Bridge across the Yalu River.

Seventy percent of North Korea’s external trade traffic uses this bridge, which is decked with neon lights on the Chinese side, yet dark once the halfway point has been crossed.

The city is home to a growing number of North Korean defectors, and is one of the few places where South and North Koreans have direct contact.

Original reporting in Korean by Junho Kim. Translated by Grigore Scarlatoiu. Written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

CH. 1: MANDARIN | CANTONESE

CH. 2: VIETNAMESE | BURMESE | KOREAN

CH. 3: KHMER | LAO | UYGHUR

CH. 4: TIBETAN

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