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North Korea says drought is worst in a century

| Wednesday, June 17, 2015, 6:09 p.m.

North Korea says it has been hit by its worst drought in a century, extensively damaging agriculture during the country's main planting season.

The official Korean Central News Agency said the drought has caused about 30 percent of its rice paddies to dry up. Young rice plants normally need to be partially submerged in water during the early summer.

“Recently in our country, there has been a severe drought with sudden extremely high temperatures and nearly no rain,” said Ri Yong Nam, a senior North Korean weather official. “Now the drought is causing a water shortage and great damage to agriculture, and we foresee this drought will continue for a while.”

He said temperatures in May were 9 to 12 degrees higher than normal.

North and South Korea have had unusually dry weather this year.

South Korea's Unification Ministry said precipitation in North Korea was abnormally low in May, and food production could decline significantly if the shortage continues. However, a ministry official said he couldn't confirm North Korea's claim that it was experiencing its worst drought in a century.

Jane Howard, a spokeswoman for the World Food Program in Rome, said North Korea has been experiencing water shortages since late last year because of low rain and snowfall. “The lack of water now could seriously affect the main crop season later this year,” she said.

The main crop season is planted in June and July and normally accounts for 90 percent of food production, she said.

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