updated 8/25/2007 1:42:35 PM ET 2007-08-25T17:42:35

Floods that swept across North Korea earlier this month killed at least 600 people, double the previously known toll, the country’s official news agency said Saturday.

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Citing North Korea’s Central Statistics Bureau, the Korean Central News Agency reported at least 600 people were dead or missing and thousands were injured. The report was the first in North Korean media to specify a precise death toll from the disaster.

Earlier, international aid groups estimated about 300 were dead or missing.

KCNA said the heavy rains caused “huge material losses” to the country, “creating unprecedented difficulties in people’s living and economic construction.”

At least 100,000 people were left homeless and more than 8,000 public buildings were totally or partially destroyed, it said.

More than 1,000 factory or mining buildings were damaged or submerged by the torrential rains, and “lots” of arable land was washed away, the report said.

The rains also flooded four railroad tunnels and triggered landslides that buried at least 200 sections of track, it said. Thousands of sections of roads and bridges also were destroyed, KCNA said.

The week of severe rainstorms was the country’s heaviest rainfall in 40 years.

Impoverished North Korea has been widely publicizing the damage while openly seeking outside help — an unusual move seen as a sign of desperation for a country often reluctant to acknowledge any internal problems.

Jo Yong Nam, head of North Korea’s recovery efforts, said the flood damage, when calculated in financial terms, was 10 times worse than floods last year, a pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan reported Thursday.

On Friday, the United Nations said it will launch an appeal this coming week for between $15 million and $20 million to help about 400,000 North Koreans affected by the floods.

U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Margareta Wahlstrom, the deputy emergency relief coordinator, said the appeal will only focus on immediate emergency needs — food, medical care, water and sanitation.

South Korea delivered the first part of a $7.5 million emergency aid package to North Korea on Thursday including instant noodles, drinking water, blankets and medicine.

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