Samaritan's Purse Sends Relief Supplies to Flood-Hit N. Korea

International Christian relief organization Samaritan's Purse has chartered a Boeing 747 cargo jet to airlift some 90 tons of relief and medical supplies from the United States to North Korea in response to the massive flooding there.

Earlier this month, nearly 260,000 people in northeastern China and North Korea fled their homes as weeks of torrential rainfall caused the Yalu River to swell over its banks, according to reports by state news outlets on Sunday.

The massive flooding swamped farmland, houses and public buildings in North Korea's northwestern city of Sinuiju and adjacent areas.

Thousands of homes and crops were reportedly wiped out and washing away, according to reports.

Though much of the international aid focus in recent weeks has been on Pakistan's flood-hit areas, Samaritan's Purse is making the effort to assist the people of North Korea, having done so for over a decade. The plane the organization has chartered has on board medicine, water filtration systems and PUR water kits, temporary shelter materials, blankets and hand tools.

The plan departed at 1 p.m. Tuesday and is scheduled to arrive Thursday in Pyongyang, where Samaritan's Purse representatives are on the ground to receive the relief supplies.

"Relations between the governments of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the U.S. have been strained, but despite our political differences, the people of North Korea are suffering from torrential floods that have ruined crops, washed out bridges and destroyed homes," said Samaritan's Purse President Franklin Graham, referring to North Korea by its formal name.

"While much of the world's attention is on Pakistan, and rightfully so, the suffering of the people in North Korea cannot be overlooked," the evangelist added.

Graham, who has traveled three times to the country rarely visited by Americans, has a long history in the DPRK, going back as far as 1934 when his mother, Ruth Bell Graham, attended a mission school in Pyongyang. His father, renowned preacher Billy Graham, visited in 1992 and 1994, meeting with President Kim Il Sung.

Graham's most recent visit to the reclusive nation was in October of 2009 when he traveled there to present $190,000 in equipment and supplies for a new dental center being built in Pyongyang. He also visited a provincial hospital in the countryside where a generator system was installed by Samaritan's Purse, which is now providing electrical power where none previously existed.

Since 1997, Samaritan's Purse has provided some $12 million in emergency assistance to the people of North Korea. The organization's response has focused primarily on medical and dental relief, including tuberculosis care, refurbishing several operating rooms and equipping a number of medical and dental facilities.