North Korean leader thankful typhoon damage wasn't worse

FILE - In this Sunday, Sept. 9, 2018 file photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves after a parade for the 70th anniversary of North Korea's founding day in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea’s collapse has been predicted — wrongly — for decades. So it is no surprise that unconfirmed rumors that current leader Kim Jong Un is seriously ill have raised worries about what Washington and North Korea’s neighbors would do if things fall apart in any post-Kim North Korea. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited a western coastal area hit by a typhoon and expressed relief the damage wasn’t worse, state media said Friday.

The North’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper published photos of Kim examining rice paddies and corn and bean crops in South Hwanghae province, where Typhoon Bavi made landfall early Thursday.

In South Korea, the typhoon caused scattered damage to homes and other buildings, grounded hundreds of domestic flights and knocked out power for several hours, but no casualties were reported.

Bavi’s landfall in North Korea came weeks after heavy rains and floods that damaged homes and crops and further strained an economy ravaged by border closures over the pandemic and U.S.-led sanctions over Kim’s nuclear program.

When Kim visited the typhoon-hit area wasn’t specified in state media, but the storm has weakened and passed out of the area by Thursday afternoon.

Flanked by masked officials, an unmasked Kim praised ruling party organizations and government officials for implementing measures that reduced the damage, Rodong Sinmun and the North’s Korean Central News Agency said.

He called for further efforts toward “minimizing the damage in the agricultural field in particular and reduction in the harvest by making a correct examination of the crop damage and taking measures for improving their growth,” KCNA said.

The agency paraphrased Kim as saying the scale of damage was smaller than expected, “adding that he had worried a lot and he feels it is fortunate.”

South Hwanghae province is a major source of farming and fishing products for a country that has chronic food shortages.

The Rodong report described flooded fields, damaged rice and toppled corn and beanstalks in South Hwanghae, as well as ruined crops in nearby North Hwanghae province. It also reported damage to houses, public buildings and other structures in South Phyongan province, near the capital Pyongyang, where pedestrians were seen walking through scores of uprooted trees after the storm.

The North’s state media has not report any injuries or deaths.