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By Yi Wonju
SEOUL, Aug. 7 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited a flood-damaged village in North Hwanghae Province after recent heavy rains left more than 900 homes inundated or destroyed there, state media said Friday.
During the visit to the Taechong-ri area of Unpha County, Kim ordered officials to send his special stock of grain to the flood victims and facilitate the use of necessary supplies, such as cement, in rebuilding the damaged sites, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
"It is of priority importance to quickly supply sleeping materials, daily commodities, medicines and other necessities to the flood-affected people to stabilize their living as early as possible," Kim was quoted as saying.
"He ordered the relevant field to submit a document on supplying every household in the afflicted area with the reserve food grain of the chairman of the State Affairs Commission," KCNA said.
Although the KCNA did not specify the date of Kim's visit, he is likely to have inspected the damaged sites Thursday, as state media reported special heavy rain warnings were issued in Hwanghae province for two days starting Tuesday.
Later in the day, the Korean Central Television Broadcasting Station released video clips that showed him getting out of the driver's seat of presumably a Lexus sport utility vehicle -- an item banned from exports into the country.
The rare scene of the powerful leader behind the wheel of the mud-stained vehicle appears to reflect an effort to craft his image as a folksy leader caring for displaced residents reeling from the aftermath of torrential rains, observers said.
Nearly 730 homes and 600 hectares of rice fields have been flooded and 179 homes destroyed after a levee broke as heavy rainfall pounded the country for days, but no casualties were reported, according to the KCNA.
Kim called on officials to "responsibly conduct the work of putting up the residents who lost their homes at offices, including those at the Party committee and people's committee of the county, public buildings and separate houses, to stabilize their living and comfort them."
He instructed them to use his "strategic reserve supplies" to ensure the North has enough construction materials, such as cement, for restoring the damaged buildings and roads.
The outlet added that Kim also mobilized the army and ordered its urgent deployment to wrecked houses, roads and zones.
Kim's visit to the flood-damaged regions marks the second of its kind since he became leader in 2011, following the inspection of North Hamgyong Province that was hit by a flood in 2015.
Kim's visit and his decision to open up his grain reserves for the flood victims appear intended to allay public grievances, as the impoverished country has struggled to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 in the North for over six months in an economy already faltering under international sanctions.
On Thursday, state media reported that Kim convened an executive policy council meeting of the Worker's Party and ordered special aid to the city of Kaesong under lockdown over coronavirus concerns.
Earlier, the North issued special heavy rain warnings for the Hwanghae province, as well as Kaesong and other parts of the country.
North Korea is vulnerable to natural disasters due to its lack of infrastructure, with heavy rains, in particular, leaving thousands of people displaced in the impoverished country.
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