Viet Nam - Forest Fire OCHA Situation Report No. 3

Report
from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 06 May 2002
OCHA/GVA - 2002/0094
OCHA Situation Report No. 3
Vietnam - Forest Fire
6 May 2002

Event and Impact

1. A major forest fire that began on 12 April in the 8,000-hectare U Minh Thuong National Park, in the southern province of Ca Mau, has been burning for over a month destroying thousands of hectares of forest. The fires had been mostly contained, due to the efforts of up to 5,000 fire fighters, but had not been completely extinguished due to extreme drought conditions and high winds. The situation worsened again on 4 May with the eruption of new fires, which reportedly destroyed an additional 1,200 hectares of vegetation.

2. Although there has been some rainfall, and seasonal rains are anticipated at any time, it has thus far been insufficient to extinguish the fires. The fire suppression strategy employed to combat the fire has been effective in containing the spread. Total extinguishment is expected only with the arrival of the seasonal rains.

3. The Melaleuca peat forest, representing an environmentally rich ecosystem (which is protected in many parts of the world), was seriously damaged. U Minh Thuong Forest is ranked as the world's second richest and largest mangrove forest, second only to the Amazon rain forest in Brasil.

General Information

4. Following discussions between the UNDP Hanoi, OCHA Geneva, and the Global Fire Monitoring Centre, Mr. Bradley Sanders, a fire operations expert, was deployed to the fire site on 20 April 2002. From 20-26 April, Mr. Sanders conducted an assessment of the fire response and identified primary humanitarian and ecological impacts arising from the fire. He arrived at a number of recommendations and conclusions, as summarised below.

5. The expert reported that the fire response and fire fighting strategy were appropriate to the situation and successful in containing the spread and limiting further damage.

6. Human impacts for those living outside the park are confined primarily to dealing with the smoke generated by the fire and from impacts on common use areas within the park. There are also cases of salt-water intrusion from the canals within the park to freshwater wells of those living within the park.

7. Ecological impacts from the fires are significant. In particular, massive destruction and loss of some 30% of the Metaleuca peat forest representing a loss of habitat for deer, wild pigs, monkeys and hundreds of bird species, and loss in biodiversity

8. OCHA remains in close contact with the office of the United Nations Resident Co-ordinator in Hanoi.

9. This situation report, together with further information on ongoing emergencies, is also available on the OCHA Internet Website at http://www.reliefweb.int

Telephone: +41-22-917 12 34
Fax: +41-22-917 00 23
E-mail: ochagva@un.org

In case of emergency only: Tel. +41-22-917 20 10

Desk Officers:
Ms. M. Spaak /Ms. P. Charlebois
Direct Tel. +41-22-917 1728/ 1815

Press contact:
(GVA) Ms. Elisabeth Byrs, direct Tel. +41-22-917 26 53
(N.Y.) Ms. Phyllis Lee, direct Tel. +1-212-963 48 32

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.