Project for Building Disaster Resilient Societies in Central Regions of Vietnam - Assessment Report on Response to Typhoon Ketsana in the Central Region -
The Central Region in Vietnam was severely affected by the Typhoon Ketsana in September 2009. It is reported that 163 people died, 11 people missing, and that economic losses was evaluated at USD 785 million. The JICA mission (mission) conducted a rapid assessment on response activities in Thua Thien Hue, Quang Nam, and Quang Ngai provinces from 18 October to 23 October 2009. The mission's objective is to collect information on hydraulic data, and on how communities and government offices concerned responded to the disaster. Lessons learned from this survey will be applied to the future implementation of the JICA project, "Building Disaster Resilience Societies in Central Regional of Vietnam". The mission conducted (i) discussions with staff of central government, province, district, commune, and ward (hamlet, or village in English; or thon in Vietnamese); (ii) interview to local residents, and (iii) field survey on flood mechanisms for the assessment.
1. Concept of "Neighboring Community" and "Self-, Mutual-, and Public Help": While flood levels in some rivers were higher than floods in 1999, death toll was decreased to one third. The key lesson from the assessment can be translated to one word: "resilience" of the people and communities. Ward (Thon) played essential and core roles in managing the disaster. It became clear that the concept of "neighboring community" has already been realized in Vietnam. As noted as the key message in the Third World Water Forum in Kyoto 2003, community is the most basic and essential unit to resolve disasters related to water. The steering committees for flood and storm control at the province, district, commune, and ward (thon) levels effectively worked to support to the people and concerned organizations in disaster management. The mission confirmed that the concept of "self-help," "mutual-help" and "public-help" are the three key elements of cooperation among the communities in Vietnam to take effective measures against disasters. This is one of the key lessons learned from the Kobe (Hanshin-Awaji) Earthquake in Japan in 1995.
2. Commune response: Responses differed from commune to commune. In Binh Duong commune of Quang Ngai Province, pre-disaster preparedness plan, workshops and meeting, periodic evaluation of their responses, and individual preparedness proved effective, resulting with limited damages to people and properties. The leadership of the flood committee played a strong role in this. On the other hand, in the Sg. Vu Gia river basin, Quang Nam Province, some local residents were suddenly attacked by floods without receiving enough information on floods and storms as inundated water levels rapidly increased. Their knowledge to cope with floods was insufficient, since flood levels this time were some 50 cm higher than the highest level they had experienced in the past. Although they were able to escape from the floods, livestock, harvested rice, and other valuables were lost.
3. Information: Usual communication systems did not work in most cases at the commune level because of power interruption. They had to rely on conventional methods of using mega-phones or door-to-door visits for information dissemination. Battery radios were useful information sources for local residents. Although mobile phone replaced their function in many cases, the system was often overloaded. Power interruption continued for almost one week at some places. It was difficult for government organizations to collect accurate information to make assessments on damages, loss, and needs in the affected areas. Dam reservoirs were operated during floods. Information on the operations was not sufficiently shared by government organizations concerned, and the people and community.
4. Risk Perception: Risk perception of the people and community organizations is the most important element for the people to take decisive actions well in advance to protect their lives and properties. This was a key challenge faced by several commune leaders, where information and warning were provided to the ward (thon) leaders, but only a limited number of people evacuated due to several reasons including protecting their physical and economic assets.
5. Community-based Structure Measures: Small structures functions well to protect properties. Bamboo forests decreased flood velocities to some extent, protecting houses, while houses in sections with no bamboo forest were severely damaged. The mission found technical issues, such as improper design of small works for bank erosion control. Quality of these works should be improved.