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SEOUL, South Korea — The World Food Programme says it has sent relief to 140,000 North Koreans affected by heavy flooding that killed dozens of people in the country’s northernmost provinces.

The floods were caused by heavy rainfall from Typhoon Lionrock in late August and early September.

The U.N. agency said the number of people affected was likely to increase as some remote areas had not yet been reached, especially with bitter cold temperatures expected as the usually severe winter approaches.

“Whole villages have been washed away by flash floods. Families have lost everything, including their kitchen gardens and livestock, which many households depend upon to supplement their diets,” said Darlene Tymo, WFP’s country director in North Korea. “The floods came just before the harvest period, when the crops were still in the ground.”

The humanitarian crisis comes at a sensitive time as North Korea is under a wave of international condemnation after conducting its fifth nuclear test on Friday.

It also compounds the already stark problem of food shortages in the country. WFP said that overall, more than 70 percent of North Korea’s population suffers from food insecurities, and the two flood-affected provinces of North Hamgyong and Ryanggang are among the poorest.

The flooding occurred around the Tumen River, which runs between North Korea and China.

A U.N. report issued by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs earlier this week said the government had confirmed 133 people killed and another 395 missing, according to The Associated Press. It also said the floods had inundated wide swaths of farmland, displaced tens of thousands of people and destroyed homes, schools and critical infrastructure.

The isolated country has mobilized brigades of soldiers to help the flood victims.

The WFP said it has distributed emergency food rations containing enough fortified biscuits for seven days and soybeans for 30 days to 140,000 people.

It issued an urgent appeal for $1.2 million to ensure continued assistance for vulnerable North Koreans.

“People are in urgent need of shelter, access to clean water and health services, as well as food and nutrition assistance,” it said in a statement.

Twitter: @kimgamel

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