Storm-hit residents face uphill battle

 

Vietnam’s central region suffers annually from a torrent of violent weather but despite gallant efforts to rebuild lives, it seems there is always another disaster just around the corner. When natural disasters strike, the country mourns together and works to rebuild communities. But sadly, the heroic efforts are often short-lived.

 
the central region was inundated by floods in September 2009. (Photo: SGGP)

Ten years has passed since the historic floods of November 1999 that killed more than 1,000 central region residents and caused VND5.4 trillion (US$292 million) in damages.

Nguyen Ty Nien, former head of the Department for Dyke Management and Flood and Storm Control said that within one month, two severe floods wiped out 52,000 homes in the province of Quang Nam that year.

Residents say that even after a decade, they are still shocked by the devastation.

A 74-year-old woman named Nguyen Thi Na said it was the most terrible flooding she had ever seen. Rain fell for days on end and her village was completely inundated by water.

At twilight one evening, the villagers heard a loud roaring from the riverbanks. It was the sound of landslides thundering down the banks, destroying everything in their path. Residents fled to the hilltops where they watched helplessly as rushing water wiped out their village of 300 homes.

The same month, a deluge also eliminated Hoa Duan Village behind Hai Van Mountain Pass in Thua Thien-Hue Province. In one night, 64 houses and 14 people were swept away.

Resident Tran Van Thu’s family suffered a loss of 12 members. It was noon on November 2, 1999, he recalls, and water had begun to flood into his village. Concerned for his wife and three children, he brought them to his parents’ home, which he believed to be safer.

After dropping them off, he returned home to keep watch on the house.

 
A central region resident clings to a doorway after his community is overwhelmed by floodwaters. The region is vulnerable to an onslaught of violent storms each year. (Photo: SGGP)

Later that afternoon, the water began to rise faster and soon flashfloods had overwhelmed the entire village. He managed to row a boat to his parents’ house, but it had been completely submerged. He was forced to swim and hang on to an electric cable to stay afloat.

It wasn’t until midnight that border army officials were able to rescue the exhausted man.

He says he lost consciousness after subsequently learning that 12 of his family members, including his parents, wife, children and brothers, had been swept away.

Ten years later on November 3, 2009, another flood destroyed a well-off hamlet called Truong on the bank of the Ky Lo River in Phu Yen Province.

The floods killed 18 people with four of them from Vo Ra’s family. The hamlet is being rebuilt in a new location, but residents will never forget the pain and trauma of the disaster.

A year to build, a day to destroy

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, over the last 50 years severe storms have battered every province in the central region. Serious floods usually follow the storms causing further destruction.

Over the past decade, natural disasters have caused an average loss of 1.5 percent a year to the country’s GDP.

Ngo Yen Thi, former secretary of the Thua Thien-Hue Province Party Committee said the floods of 1999 caused the province VND1.8 trillion in damages and killed 352 people. After 24 years of developing the province, it was nearly devastated.

When lives are lost and homes are destroyed, the country mourns together and works to rebuild communities. But sadly, the heroic efforts are often short-lived

Typhoon Ketsana ravaged homes and left 300 dead or missing in September this year. (Photo: SGGP)

Mr. Thi says he’ll never forget people in the mountainous district of Nam Dong picking rubber-tree branches in tears in 2006, because after 10 years of cultivating over 700 hectares of the trees, Typhoon Xangsane had turned them into nothing more than firewood.

The typhoon caused a staggering VND18.5 trillion (US$1 billion) in losses. The eye of the storm hit Danang city and within an hour, nearly VND5.3 trillion (US$286 million) worth of damage had been caused. It was almost equal to the total amount of the city’s GDP for the entire year. 

This year in the impoverished neighboring province of Quang Nam, hardworking citizens had achieved a GDP of VND4.1 trillion (US$222 million) in the first six months. However, the storms and floods of September have now swallowed nearly VND3.5 trillion.

During a trip to provide relief to residents in Quang Nam, Danang, and Thua Thien-Hue, where Typhoon Ketsana hit in late September this year, Sai Gon Giai Phong reporters said hundreds of lives had been devastated. 

Many families were forced to hang the coffins of dead relatives using rope for up to a week because there was nowhere to bury them in the deluge.

Subsequent landslides led to starvation and thirst for many living in remote areas as supply vehicles were unable to residents for nearly a month.

In the wake of the destruction, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat said he did not know when the central region would make a full recovery.

Citizens work hard the entire year but can lose everything in a day after just one storm, said Mr. Phat.

According to experts, the central region will suffer even worse natural disasters in the future as global climate changes together with human activity intensify the storms’ devastating effects. 

By staff writers – Translated by Hai Mien

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