By Sam Kim
SEOUL, Sept. 1 (Yonhap) -- North Korea remains silent on an offer by South Korea's Red Cross to provide 10 billion won (US$8.4 million) in flood aid, a government official here said Wednesday.
The Seoul-based Red Cross, the South's main channel for humanitarian cooperation with North Korea, had offered Tuesday to send medical kits, emergency food and other supplies to North Korea, which sustained heavy damage from downpours in its areas bordering China last month.
The aid, which would exclude rice, a staple South Korea refuses to send amid strained inter-Korean relations, would contrast with the tension that has built up since Seoul blamed Pyongyang in May for the deadly sinking of its warship.
Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo said the North or its Red Cross had yet to show any response to the proposal the South delivered earlier this week, but that Seoul will nevertheless proceed with necessary preparations.
"I believe the (South's) Red Cross will prepare the assistance" while waiting for a reply from the North, she said in a briefing. "Our ministry will also take part in necessary discussions in the process."
According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, a flash flood caused by heavy rains recently killed 14 people and prompted tens of thousands of others to evacuate a North Korean province bordering China.
A Seoul-based relief group, Good Friends, put the number of deaths at 32 with 38 others missing in a report seen on Tuesday.
The August downpours deluged crop fields, houses and public buildings in the North's border town of Sinuiju, according to television footage released by Pyongyang.
South Korea has cut off almost all trade with and assistance to North Korea since a multinational probe found Pyongyang responsible for the Cheonan sinking. North Korea has threatened war as punishment, freezing relations that were already icy.
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