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New Storm Bears Down on Flood-Damaged Central Vietnam

A view of Quang Tri from a hotel rooftop.
A view of Quang Tri from a hotel rooftop.

The third typhoon in a month is bearing down on Central Vietnam, where residents are still reeling from historic flooding and landslides that have claimed 130 lives and affected more than 5 million people.

Another 20 people are still missing in the wake of two storms that ravaged the central provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri, Thua Thien Hue, Da Nang, Quang Nam, Quang Ngai and Binh Dinh.

Typhoon Linfa and Typhoon Nangka both hit in the first two weeks of October. Now Typhoon Molave is bearing down and expected to hit the same region within hours.

Local authorities have asked residents in Da Nang and Hue to stay indoors through Tuesday night for their own safety, and are preparing to potentially evacuate nearly 1.3 million people from the most vulnerable areas.

The storm’s eye was forecast to be directly over Da Nang’s coastline by 10 am Thursday with winds reaching up to 150 kilometers per hour and gusts of up to 167-183 kilometers per hour.

Residents in Da Nang have been taking preventive measures by sandbagging the entrances to their homes and businesses. Meanwhile, local workers have been frantically lopping treetops in the My Khe beach neighborhood.

Residents have been told to expect power cuts and more potential flooding and landslides over the coming days.

Last week, 22 soldiers went missing in a landslide at a military camp in Quang Tri and as of now 14 bodies have been found. This is likely to be the greatest loss of life to strike Vietnam’s military since the end of its civil war.

Quang Tri was a significant battlefront in the Vietnam War and underground military tunnels as well as tanks from the war are still on display today.

Each year the central coastal provinces of Vietnam are prone to massive storms; however, the severity of this year’s flooding is the worst the country has seen in over two decades.

The heavier than usual downpours this year are being attributed to a “La Nina” climate pattern, which as many as five or six more tropical depressions could reach Vietnam’s 2,000-mile coastline this year.

“The flooding in Quang Tri is worse than the floods in 1999, but we are Vietnamese and we are strong,” said Ms Anh, a local resident who is assisting with the relief effort. “The government is of course helping us and other locally-run charities are helping as well.”

Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh said last week that the government will be provide the equivalent of about $21.5 million to five of the hardest hit provinces.

The wetlands of Quang Tri are home to many farmers who mainly grow rice and raise livestock, much of which has been lost in the floods.

“We will collect the money and other items to provide for the local people… these days, the local people have nothing to eat, nothing to drink… so we will try to provide them with something to eat and drink,” said a local female volunteer helping out at a Buddhist pagoda in Quang Tri.

The monks and other members of the pagoda have been providing food and assistance for 200 households in a flood-affected village in Quang Tri. The damage to rice paddies, roads, homes, schools, shops and other businesses is clearly visible throughout the coastal areas of the province.

Almost every remaining house in the wetland areas shows a distinct muddy line just a few meters from the ceiling, showing how high the water levels rose. Other houses were completely submerged.

Lacking electricity and pumps, residents have been laboriously sweeping out the muddy water with brooms and wheelbarrows. Schools have been shut for over two weeks and many facilities, including computers, playground equipment, textbooks and toys have been destroyed.

Since the beginning of October, dramatic images and videos carried in the local media have shown distressed people searching for their missing loved ones, fisherman caught at sea being rescued by emergency workers in helicopters, and locals climbing onto their roofs as they wait to be rescued.

The United States Agency for International Development gifted the Vietnam Red Cross Society $100,000 on Saturday, and another $100,000 has been promised by the U.N. Development Program and Save the Children Vietnam. The Australian Ambassador to Vietnam, Robyn Mudie, announced Friday that Australia will be providing the equivalent of $71,000 in relief funds as well.

Pacific Links Foundation and Blue Dragon are two prominent organizations that are working on the ground in the flood zones helping families at risk by donating aid and raising money.