Suspected North Korea dam water release prompts South Koreans to evacuate

A North Korean flag flutters on top of a tower at North Korea's propaganda village of Gijungdong, as seen from Paju
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SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea appears to have released water from a dam near its border with South Korea, prompting vacationers in the neighbouring country to evacuate over rising water levels on the Imjin River, officials said on Tuesday.

The water level at a bridge at the river in the South's border county of Yeoncheon surpassed 1 metre on Monday afternoon, requiring visitors on the riverbank to evacuate, government data showed.

"North Korea appears to have released water from its Hwanggang dam," an official at South Korea's unification ministry handling inter-Korean affairs told Reuters.

The Yeoncheon county said it sent alarm messages to nearby residents and issued warnings to move to a safe area.

It was not immediately clear how many people had to leave after the suspected water release.

"The water level is now decreasing after hovering over 1.6 metres," a Yeoncheon county official said.

North Korea has been stepping up efforts to prevent flood damage from recent heavy rains.

South Korea has repeatedly urged the North to give notice before releasing water from the dam, as the river flows through Yeoncheon, but Pyongyang has remained unresponsive.

Release of water from the dam in 2009 resulted in flooding downstream that killed six South Koreans.

(Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi. Editing by Gerry Doyle)