Viet Nam

More monsoon rains drench flood-weary Vietnam

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Written by Cynthia Long, Staff Writer, DisasterRelief.org
As 6 feet of floodwater slowly recedes from the inundated rice fields and villages of central Vietnam, relief agencies with food, clothing and medicine are gradually reaching the stranded. At least 94 people are dead, 22 are missing and 1 million are homeless after the second round of flooding to drench the country in a month.

Map courtesy of the BBC State media reported that the death toll is likely to rise across the eight swamped provinces of the flood zone, which stretches 400 miles from Quang Tri province to Khanh Hoa province and is home to about 8 million people. But relief workers said the toll would not approach the approximately 600 victims who died last month in what many have said was the worst flooding Vietnam has suffered this century. Rescuers were better prepared for the second deluge and were able to respond more rapidly, according to officials.

Torrential rains began soaking the saturated ground last Thursday and within 48 hours helicopters were making airdrops of food to stranded villagers in flood-stricken areas. By the third day, more than 5,000 soldiers had been deployed to the disaster scene to provide assistance.

Vietnam's Disaster Management Unit said that 400,000 people were in need of emergency assistance and that the torrents had collapsed, washed away or damaged about 400,000 homes. Beyond structural damage, 40, 270 acres of the region's precious rice crop was also destroyed. The National Committee for Flood and Storm Control put the damage estimate for seven provinces at $10 million -- an added burden to the whopping $240 million caused by November's floods.

Vietnam Still Reeling From the First Deluge

In early November, 76-year-old farmer Tran Vin lost 18 pigs, five cows, all of his chickens and his entire rice crop to the worst flooding Vietnam has seen in decades. "This was my house last week but today it is all gone," he told a group of Red Cross volunteers, pointing to a pile of cement bricks. "I also lost all my household belongings - I have nothing now."

Vin was not alone. "The [November] floods directly affected one million people. It killed nearly 600 and destroyed livestock, property, rice fields...bridges, schools hospitals and houses," said John Geoghegan, Vietnam head of delegation for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC).

As people in the region, among the poorest in Vietnam, were struggling to get back on their feet the second deluge knocked them back down. "This is a double whammy for central Vietnam. Communities were only just getting their lives back to normal," Geoghegan said.

Second Flood Could Be More Damaging

The Vietnam Daily News reported that the latest floods could be more destructive than the November deluge because the area covered by water is larger. The recent rains washed away re-planted rice fields and made planting the next rice crop impossible by once again inundating paddy fields.

While the floods won't impact Vietnam's overall growth because the region is not a major contributor to industrial output, the two floods are expected to set the region's development back by several years. Relief agencies warn that assistance needs to continue to ensure the area will rebound. "We are worried about the vulnerability of people. Without some assistance coming back in a few months, this kind of (immediate) help is like putting a Band-Aid on a really bad cut," said Geoghegan.

Blankets were among the relief supplies distributed to flood victims. In addition to meeting the immediate needs of flood victims with supplies such as medicine, instant noodles, potable water, plastic sheeting and blankets, the IFRC and Vietnam Red Cross are providing rice three month's worth of rice and house reconstruction kits to the most vulnerable families in the area.

"Many communes have suffered heavy damage and long term rehabilitation is an urgent need," Geoghegan said.

Logging Worsens Floods

Environmentalists are blaming wholesale logging as a factor in the flooding. A spokesman for the World Wildlife Fund says the government and provincial authorities are aware of the need to protect the forests and have been active in programs to provide more tree cover, but illegal logging is widespread along a steep mountain range that lies not far inland.

The narrow, coastal country of Vietnam, home to 79 million people, is regularly hit by typhoons and flooding from heavy monsoon rains.

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© Copyright 1999, The American National Red Cross. All Rights Reserved.

DisasterRelief
DisasterRelief.org is a unique partnership between the American Red Cross, IBM and CNN dedicated to providing information about disasters and their relief operations worldwide. The three-year-old website is a leading disaster news source and also serves as a conduit for those wishing to donate to disaster relief operations around the globe through the international Red Cross movement. American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. To help the victims of disaster, you may make a secure online credit card donation or call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you may send your donation to your local Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. The American Red Cross is dedicated to helping make families and communities safer at home and around the world. The Red Cross is a volunteer-led humanitarian organization that annually provides almost half the nation's blood supply, trains nearly 12 million people in vital life-saving skills, mobilizes relief to victims in more than 60,000 disasters nationwide, provides direct health services to 2.5 million people, assists international disaster and conflict victims in more than 20 countries, and transmits more than 1.4 million emergency messages to members of the Armed Forces and their families. If you would like information on Red Cross services and programs please contact your local Red Cross. © Copyright, The American National Red Cross. All Rights Reserved.