FLOODS AND MUDSLIDES IN VIETNAM

FLOODS IN VIETNAM

Vietnam is prone to floods and storms. Each year dozens—often hundreds—of people die in floods in Vietnam, parts of which are densely populated and low-lying and regularly struck by heavy weather and floods during the rainy season. An average of 430 people were killed each year by natural disasters between 2007-2011 in Vietnam, with property losses estimated at 1 percent of gross domestic product, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told a conference on food security and climate change in Hanoi. [Source: Reuters, September 8, 2012]

In 2008, natural disasters—most of them connected to typhoons, heavy rains and flooding— killed 550 people in Vietnam and caused damage amounting to more than $700 million dollars. In 2004, natural disasters killed 232 people and left 38 missing, injured 187 others, destroyed 4,200 houses and 3,000 hectares of rice, and killed over 2,000 cattle and 170,000 poultryin Vietnam, causing a property loss of over $57 million dollars. [Source: Xinhua, October 12, 2005]

Vietnamese government efforts to fight seasonal floods have included giving farmers loans to raise their houses' foundation, constructing and reinforcing the dike system and building a canal system to discharge flood waters to the Gulf of Thailand.

Flooding in the Mekong Delta and Central Highlands

Most of the deaths occur in two areas: the Mekong Delta and the Central Highlands. Flash floods and landslides in Vietnam's central region in October and November 1999 killed more than 730 people. In 2001, 390 people, mostly children, were killed in floods in the Mekong Delta region in the south. In 1996, flooding in the Mekong Delta killed 180 people, submerged or damaged nearly 800,000 houses, and ten of thousands of people were given emergency relief. In 1978 hundreds more were killed in the Mekong Delta when overall natural disasters in Vietnam killed about 700 people. The Mekong Delta, which is Vietnam's largest rice-growing region and home to more than 12 million people, is prone to seasonal flooding that often causes widespread devastation and loss of human life and results in thousands of people being displaced from their homes.

The worst rains in a century occurred in November and December 1999, leaving around 1,000 people dead, most of them in central Vietnam. The rains were triggered by a cold spell that resulted in the dumping of more than two meters of water in some places. More than 1 million people needed emergency assistance. Some survivors survived with food dropped by helicopters. After the most violent downpour ever witnessed in the area around Hue. Hue looked like a lake district, except that the lakes had roof tops and telephone poles sticking out of them. The Perfume River that flows into Hue overflowed its banks. In a scene that was reminiscent of the Vietnam War helicopters swooped into Da Nang to bring emergency supplies. There were worries that some large dams might burst.

In September 2000, 480 people were killed in floods as waters in the Mekong Delta near Cambodia rose to historically high levels. Most of the dead were children forced to look for food and firewood by their parents. Some were on platforms above the flood waters and fell off. More than a half million homes were swamped, many up to their rafters. The foods were caused by a combination of high tides and heavy rains upstream in Vietnam and Cambodia. Areas that were once covered by rice fields became a huge lake that extended as far as the eye could see. The the worst flood on record in the Mekong Delta area occurred in 1961when water level were 5.1 meters above normal. Floods in the region in 1996 killed 217 people.

Landslides and Mudslides in Vietnam

Many of those who die in flooding and heavy rains in the mountains die in landslides or mudslides during the rainy season from May to September, especially towards of the rainy season when the ground is saturated. In September 2012, Reuters reported: “Landslides and floods in Vietnam have killed at least 29 people in recent days as heavy rain soaks northern and central areas, state media and the government said. In one incident, 16 people were killed in landslides while they were going to tin mine in the mountainous northern province of Yen Bai. Another person died in hospital, the Defence Ministry-run People's Army newspaper said. [Source: Reuters, September 8, 2012]

In August 2006. Reuters reported: “Flooding, landslides and lightning have killed at least 13 people in northern Vietnam, bringing the nationwide death toll in a week of torrential rain to 40, a government report said. Thousands have been evacuated to higher ground as water levels in the region's main rivers were expected to continue rising with more rainfall forecast for the coming week, state media quoted the report as saying. Officials said that four people were killed in a landslide in the northern province of Yen Bai on Saturday. Four died on the outskirts of the capital, Hanoi, when they were struck by lightning and five were swept away in flash flooding. Late last week, at least 27 people were reported killed in northern and central regions of the Southeast Asian country. [Source: Reuters, August 20, 2006]

Floods and Droughts in the Mekong Delta

While annual floods have the potential to cause damage to unprepared communities, spoil crops and endanger food security, they also play a vital role in agriculture. Additionally, annual flood pulses sustain the world-renowned productivity of Mekong freshwater fisheries. The average annual cost of the repercussions of floods in the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB) ranges from $60 million to $70 million, while on the positive side of the ledger, the average annual value of flood benefits is approximately $8 billion to $10 billion. The goal – and challenge – of flood management is to reduce the costs and impacts of flooding while preserving the benefits. [Source: Mekong River Commission <>]

The environmental, social, and economic benefits of flooding in the LMB are greater than in any other river basin in the world. The annual flood pulse drives the basin’s fisheries. Floodwaters are stored for use in the dry season, particularly for irrigation. Flood-deposited sediments improve soil fertility across the LMB floodplains. Finally, floods flush and dilute stagnant and polluted waters, recharge groundwater tables, and maintain river morphology. <>

Severe flooding can result in the tragic loss of life, damage to agriculture, property and infrastructure, and disruption of social and economic activities throughout the basin. Cambodia and Viet Nam alone commonly account for approximately two-thirds of the region’s total annual flood damage. Flood risks can be minimised through various forms of land-use, development and building controls, regional flood emergency planning, and improved preparedness. <>

Flood preparedness in the Lower Mekong Basin requires coordinated management by all concerned parties. The MRC plays an important role in aiming for basin-wide coordination of flood mitigation activities and encouraging an approach that benefits all Member Countries. During the flood season, the MRC takes data from 138 hydro-meteorological stations to predict the water levels of 22 forecast points on the Mekong mainstream. This information is then disseminated to National Mekong Committees, national forecasting agencies, Civil Society Organizations, the media and the public. <>

Unlike floods, droughts have less apparent benefits. Drought can result in food and water shortages, loss of income, and higher levels of disease. Droughts are damaging to agriculture, especially rice and can result in a total loss of crops, livestock and fisheries. Given the relatively high frequency of severe drought in the Lower Mekong Basin, its associated costs are, and will continue to be, greater than those of flooding. In response to the threat of drought, efforts are being made by the MRC and its Member Countries to devise strategies that aim to decrease the vulnerability of people in the basin, especially in agricultural communities.

Dykes in Vietnam

According to Vietnam-culture.com: “Control of the rivers has been crucial to the Vietnamese people’s hard-won ability to survive and thrive in a sometimes unforgiving land. The construction of dykes along rivers is without a doubt one of the most important steps in the emergence of the Vietnamese people. Throughout Vietnamese history, the dykes have played an important role in everyday life. Since ancient times, the mobilization of people to dyke construction sites helped build up the nation’s common identity. Agrarians saw the dykes as a matter of life and death, and as the protector of their crops - especially rice. [Source:Vietnam-culture.com vietnam-culture.com ><]

“The dykes were sometimes ascribed with the hard-working, intelligent, innovative and flexible characteristics of the Vietnamese. They reinforced the sense of community of the people that helped them fight foreign invaders, and regain independence after 1,000 years of feudal Chinese domination. They also created a new cultural space within which the Vietnamese village prospered. People who dared to move outside of the dyke to live were seen as having strong characters and unwilling to obey the village code and other restrictions. This idea has even been used to explain the observation that Vietnamese farmers in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta seem to be more outgoing than the more reserved people of the Hong (Red) River Delta. ><

“Each Vietnamese village has its own local culture, linked to the others by the roads built on top of the dykes. A Russian historian once wrote: "Vietnam has a wet paddy civilization attached to a dyke civilization. These two factors combined have a strength that has made Vietnamese culture endure time and history." When the dyke system fails the results can be disastrous. After the great flood of August 1971 overwhelmed the dyke system large sections of Vietnam were underwater. ><

History of Dykes in Vietnam

According to Vietnam-culture.com: “Before they built dykes, the Viet people had lived as hunters and collectors of wild fruits in hilly areas such as the present-day Phu Tho, Hoa Binh, Thanh Hoa provinces. There was a revolution in Vietnamese agriculture at the start of the Dong Dau (Bronze Age) and the Iron Age, when people discovered how to raise pigs, chickens, dogs and sticky rice. This was when rice became the chief staple of Vietnam, and came to be seen as a "totem." Even today, sticky rice is used as a key offering by the Vietnamese people in their ceremonies and worship practices. [Source:Vietnam-culture.com vietnam-culture.com ><]

“As their population increased, the Vietnamese people moved down to the plains of the Hong (Red) River Delta where conditions for agriculture were better. The delta offered more access to water from ponds, lakes and rivers, but also offered a major challenge in the form of irrigation and water management. They could only survive through proper water management and the cultivation of rice in wet paddies. The construction of dykes was a challenge beyond anything a single village or community could manage on its own. The ancient Vietnamese had to unite various tribes to construct dykes for their mutual benefit, and the most respected chief would be called vua (king). ><

“The history of the Vietnamese state can be traced back to those chiefs who knew how to unite people in the common cause of water control and defense against foreign invasions. The early people’s desire for control over the waters of the Hong River is reflected in the legend of Son Tinh and Thuy Tinh (Mountain Spirit and Water Spirit). The successful marriage of Son Tinh and the king’s daughter, My Nuong, demonstrates the success of the early attempts to conquer the natural flow of the waters. ><

“Dykes cannot simply be built and left alone; the skill was shared from one generation to another. As early as the 3rd Century B.C., foreigners visiting Vietnam noted the presence of huge dykes along its rivers. "The district of Phong Khe has dykes to hold back the water from the Long Mon [now Da] River," said Giao Chau Ky (The Report on Giao Chau - then the name of Vietnam). Later, the Han Thu (Documents of the Han) observed, "To the northwest of Long Bien district there are dykes to keep back the river water." ><

By the A.D. 9th Century, the historical record stated, "Cao Bien ordered the people to construct a dyke around the Dai La citadel with a total length of 8,500m and height of 8m." At the time, Hanoi was known as Dai La Citadel. When Ly Cong Uan took the throne in 1010, he became the first king of the Ly Dynasty - Vietnam’s first feudal dynasty. He ordered that the capital be moved from Hoa Lu to Dai La and renamed it Thang Long (now Hanoi), with the ambition of controlling the waters of the Hong River. In 1077, the Ly Dynasty ordered the construction of a 30km long dyke on the Nhu Nguyet River, now Cau River in the northern province of Bac Ninh.Twenty-six years later, the dynasty issued Vietnam’s first-ever decree on dyke construction. ><

As the Tran Dynasty replaced the Ly, the feudal courts not only continued to strengthen the river dykes system but also started the construction of coastal dykes. They appointed mandarins and officials called Ha De Chanh Pho Su (chief and deputy mandarins for dyke protection) to take care of the dykes. Under the Le Dynasty in 1664, King Le Huyen Tong issued a detailed regulation on dyke protection and the dykes were strenghtened with rocks. However, the Nguyen Dynasty could be the most ignorant period of dyke protection in the history of Vietnam. Throughout their reign, the Nguyen courts rarely invested in dyke construction and protection. The many poems from the period reveal that there were 18 dyke brakes under their rule in Hung Yen Province alone. ><

The reunification of Vietnam in 1975 led again to a united effort in dyke development. A department of dyke management was created in the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The State issued the Decree on Dyke Protection and reinforced the existing system to a new level.

Flood Control and Risks in Ho Chi Minh City

In May 2013, The Economist reported: “The rivers and canals of Ho Chi Minh City (known locally as HCMC) meander like veins through its motorbike-clogged districts. The city’s location is good for manufacturers who cheaply produce goods here and truck them to nearby ports with easy access to the South China Sea. But it worries urban planners familiar with the city’s quixotic campaign to prevent flooding. HCMC, formerly Saigon, has so far been spared a devastating flood, and donors have so far been eager to help. The World Bank, for example, has upgraded stormwater and canal infrastructure in a few central districts. A joint Dutch-Vietnamese project aims to help HCMC adapt to climate change. [Source: The Economist. May 4, 2013>>>]

“Yet nearly half the city lies less than one metre above sea level, and scientists say groundwater extraction, which causes land subsidence, may be having a huge unseen effect. Nearly 70 percent of the city is already vulnerable to extreme flooding, according to the Asian Development Bank. Flood risks are rising in HCMC’s lower-lying districts, in part because the property boom that accompanied Vietnam’s 2007 entry to the World Trade Organization led many developers to build wherever they could. One potential victim is an Intel factory inside a high-tech park on HCMC’s eastern outskirts. The threat to such a big firm is troubling because the city accounts for more than half of foreign direct investment in Vietnam, and exports have helped offset weak consumer demand. >>>

“In Vietnam urban floods also pose public health risks in the form of outbreaks of cholera or dysentery . And HCMC’s population which, including unregistered migrants, may be as high as 8.7m, is increasing by up to half a million every year. Poor migrants who build flimsy shacks in its swampy outskirts would be early victims of flooding. Melissa Merryweather, an architectural consultant in the city, says even its best planners cannot stop developers from building in flood-prone districts, in part because the space for expansion in central districts is scarce. >>>

“The government is promoting a plan to build a 172-km (106-mile), $2.6 billion system of ring dykes to protect urban areas west of the Saigon River. But the financing is not yet secure, and the World Bank has said such large flood-control solutions may be unsustainable. A better option may be a smaller $1.4 billion dyke proposed by Royal HaskoningDHV, a Dutch consultancy that has managed similar projects in New Orleans and other flood-prone places. But officials at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development typically prefer expensive infrastructure projects, which offer opportunities for kickbacks. "They love dykes," says Ho Long Phi, a professor at Vietnam National University in HCMC. >>>

“Mr Phi may be Saigon’s best flood-control asset. Unlike many Vietnamese officials, he understands that bigger flood-protection measures are not necessarily better, and that if the city is to prosper in the long term, it will need to work with, rather than against, nature. Today’s policies will only transfer flooding risks to future generations. In Mr Phi’s view, the only thing that may change the government’s short-sighted approach to flood prevention is a catastrophe. >>>

Vietnam Floods in 2013

In November 2013, CBC News reported: “The death toll from flooding caused by heavy rains in central Vietnam has risen to 41, with about 80,000 people forced from their homes, disaster officials said. The National Floods and Storms Control Agency said in a statement that the floods had affected more than 400,000 houses, but added the flood waters have mostly receded, allowing many residents to return home. The heavy rains began November 14. The officials said the deaths occurred in six central provinces. Binh Dinh was the worst-hit province with 18 people dead. Another five people are missing. The floods also injured 74 people and damaged 4,300 hectares of rice paddies and other crops, the agency said. [Source: CBC News, November 19, 2013]

According to Reliefweb: “Since 14-17 November, extensive flooding occurred in central of Vietnam which has left at least 42 people dead, 5 missing and 66 injured. The most affected provinces are Quang Ngai and Binh Dinh. Central and Local Governments are immediately carrying out response and recovery actions on the ground. The water has now started receding from most of the affected districts. Some communes in Tuy Phuoc district in Binh Dinh province are still inundated. The UN Disaster Risk Management Team (UNDRMT) has closely monitored tropical storm 15 and the subsequent flooding, and has coordinated with humanitarian stakeholders to share information on the situation. INGOs active in the affected provinces are currently conducting rapid assessments to identify the needs and gaps in all sectors. [Source: Reliefweb,int, November 20, 2013]

The BBC reported: “Flooding and landslides in central Vietnam have left at least 28 people dead, nine missing and some 80,000 homeless since Friday. Lives were lost across five provinces, according to the National Flood and Storm Control Agency, quoted by the Associated Press. In Quang Ngai province, flood waters reportedly rose above a previous peak recorded in 1999. A tropical depression has dumped rain on the country. Earlier in the week, at least 13 people died and 81 were injured when Tropical Storm Haiyan made landfall in north Vietnam after wreaking havoc in the Philippines. [Source: BBC, November 17, 2013]

There has been disruption to the coffee harvest and bean drying in Vietnam's central highland provinces, Reuters news agency reports. Flood waters have started to recede in some areas, allowing residents to return and begin digging out their homes, officials said. Binh Dinh Province reported the highest number of deaths, followed by Quang Ngai, the official Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper reports.

Bui Thi Thanh Chuyen, a woman in Binh Dinh, told Vietnamese state TV on Saturday she had rushed home to try and help her mother, who was trapped in her house. "All I heard [on the phone] from my mother was 'Help me, daughter' before the connection was cut off," she said. "I rushed here to try to help her but I cannot cross the flood to the house." In the Danang area, villager Vo Ngoc Nghiem described the speed of the disaster: "We are familiar with floods every year but this time it rose so quickly that we had no time to cope with it. "We weren't warned about the reservoir release. The children were at school and they were stranded there." Some 100,000 houses were submerged and roads were closed and some national train services cancelled. Flood waters rose quickly after 15 hydro power plants opened their sluice gates as a safety measure.

Floods and Landslides in Vietnam in 2010

In October 2010, CNN reported: “The death toll from the latest round of heavy rain and flooding in central Vietnam continues to soar, with 46 people killed and 21 missing, state-run media report. Rescuers were able to save 18 people whose bus was swept away Monday on the north-south highway 1A through Ha Tinh Province, but 19 people remain unaccounted for, according to VietNamNet. The homes of 200,000 people are underwater in Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Quang Bing provinces because of floods caused by storms that began October 14, official media report. On Sunday alone, about 30 inches of rain fell in parts of the country. The storms have hit the southeast Asian nation's agricultural sector hard, with waters inundating 8,000 hectares (31 square miles) of rice fields. Prices of some crops have increased 200 to 500 percent as a result. [Source: CNN, October 20, 2010 ==]

“This storm follows rains and floods at the beginning of October in Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Quang Bing, Quang Tri and Thua Thien provinces that caused an estimated $137.5 million in damage, according to VietNamNet. The two rounds of flood calamities have contributed to the deaths of 112 people, reported state-run television network VTV4, which cited Vietnam's Central Steering Committee for Flood and Storm Control as its source. The Vietnamese government has dispatched 20,000 troops to help with the rescue and recovery process in the latest flooding, with Red Cross staffers from Vietnam, Spain, China, Germany and the United States among those helping the cause, reported VietNamNet. ==

“The number of fatalities has climbed significantly in recent days. State-run media were reporting that at least 20 people had died. A flood and landslide warning remains in effect for much of the region, with water levels dangerously high in the Ca River in Nghe An province and the Ngan Sau River in Ha Tinh province. Landslides have already dumped tons of dirt and debris, clogging the Pe Ke mountain pass and parts of the Ho Chi Minh Highway. ==

“Two weeks earlier, 66 people in the region died after record-setting rains caused flooding, Reuters reported: “Flooding in central Vietnam has killed more than two dozen people and the military has been ordered to deliver emergency supplies and rescue fishermen in distress. Heavy rains from October 1 flooded rivers and inundated tens of thousands of houses in five provinces from Nghe An to Thua Thien-Hue, a swath of territory starting some 300 kilometers (180 miles) south of Hanoi and stretching south, the government reported. So far, 30 people had died in the flooding, an official with the Vietnam Red Cross said. The government's website (www.chinhphu.vn) put the death toll at 28, with seven missing and nine injured. [Source: Reuters, October 6, 2010 |:|]

“Helicopters were ferrying instant noodles and drinking water into mountain communities and the navy had come to the aid of at least one boat in distress, it said. The affected area lies outside Vietnam's key rice growing deltas and also far north of the Central Highlands coffee belt. State media said several trains and buses were stranded in Quang Binh province as many sections of track and parts of Highway One, Vietnam's main north-south artery, were washed away. |:|

Twenty Dead as Floods Sweep a Bus Off a Road

Reporting from Nghi Xuan, Margie Mason of Associated Press wrote: “ Rescuers pulled nine bodies, including those of three children, from a bus winched off a river bottom and dragged to shore Thursday, three days after the vehicle was swept off the road by floods in central Vietnam. The remains of five additional passengers, including two brothers, were found floating elsewhere in the Lam River, bringing the number of confirmed dead to 14. Six other people were still missing but presumed dead, as crews used cranes to tug the bus to the riverbank, said Nguyen Nhat, deputy governor of Ha Tinh province. Eighteen other people managed to escape to safety. [Source: Margie Mason, Associated Press, October 21, 2010 /+/]

“Divers located the bus just downstream from where it disappeared, but officials said it was stuck in sand and mud about 40 feet (12 meters) down on the river bottom. Thousands of onlookers watched the work from a nearby vantage point, while family members stood by somberly. Some burned incense and prayed at an altar with fruit and flowers set up beside the riverbank. Others, like Nguyen Van Vu, 28, sat quietly on the ground, staring into the water. He lost his wife and 7-month-old baby, and broke down in tears after seeing their bodies among those recovered from the bus. "We were only married a year ago," he said, softly. "She was going with our daughter to Nam Dinh province for her younger sister's wedding." /+/

“The bus, travelling from the Central Highlands province of Dak Nong to northern Nam Dinh province, was caught in murky, fast-moving water early Monday after the driver ignored police warnings and attempted to plow through the flooded area on the country's main north-south highway. The vehicle's engine stalled and it was knocked off balance before being pulled under by the current. Some passengers managed to break a window, but survivors said many people remained trapped inside when the bus began to sink and disappear. /+/

“As work began to haul the bus up, police in orange life vests patrolled the swift water, looking for additional bodies. Officials closed off the road to traffic, but thousands climbed a mountain overlooking the riverbank to watch. They clapped and yelled when the first bodies were fished from the water. The crowd erupted into cheers when the blue, white and green bus was finally hoisted from the muddy river. After the bodies were identified, they were cleaned and placed in coffins for transport back to their home villages. But some loved ones desperate for closure were left to wait longer. /+/

“Tran Dang Luc, 47, survived the ordeal on the bus, but watched his 18-year-old son and 16-year-old niece sink into the water after they both called out to him that they couldn't swim. They were not among those found Thursday. "I will remain here until the bodies of my son and niece are recovered," he said. "I just cannot leave this place. My last wish is to have the bodies for a proper burial." /+/

Landslides and Floods in Vietnam in 2008 and 2009

In July 2009, Mohit Joshi of DPA wrote: “Three days of flash floods have killed at least 20 people, left 18 missing and damaged many homes and roads in northern Vietnam, the country's Central Steering Committee for Flood and Storm Control said. Thirteen people were killed when landslides buried their homes following heavy rains in Bac Kan province. Heavy rains started on Friday and were still falling on Monday, hitting the six northern provinces of Bac Kan, Cao Bang, Ha Giang, Lai Chau, Lao Cai and Son La. The rain swept away crops and houses, caused landslides and disrupted traffic. [Source: Mohit Joshi, DPA, July 6, 2009 \\\\]

“Local television and Vietnam Television broadcast pictures showing many houses flooded to their roofs. The state-run Vietnam News reported many districts in these provinces had been completely cut off due to washed out roads, and severed electricity and telephone lines. Rescue teams were deployed to some isolated communities to evacuate flood victims. Vietnam's Central Hydro-Meteorological Forecast Center said the floods were caused by rainfall topping between 100 and more than 250 millimeters in some areas in three nights. The center said that the heavy rains would continue, so water levels in rivers such as the Red River would continue to rise over the next few days. \\\\

In September 2008, Reuters reported: “Flash floods and landslides have killed 50 people in Vietnam and Thailand, swept away thousands of homes and inundated farmland, official reports said. In Vietnam, the death toll from typhoon Hagupit, which struck the Philippines and China earlier in the week, has jumped to 32 with another five people missing. Thousands of homes were either washed away or destroyed by heavy rains and landslides in northern Vietnam, the government's storm and flood prevention committee said. Vietnamese soldiers were dispatched to evacuate thousands of people from areas vulnerable to more flash floods and landslides in the mountainous provinces of Son La, Lang Son and Bac Giang. The Red River near the capital Hanoi was expected to reach dangerously high levels on Sunday, rising to 8.6 meters (28 ft), the center said.[Source: Reuters, September 28, 2008]

Tourists Stranded, Crocodiles Freed by Vietnam Floods in 2007

In November 2007, Metro.co.uk reported: “Thousands of foreign tourists are stuck in central Vietnam after flooding cut off roads and railways. About 2,500 foreigners were among 3,000 tourists who have been confined to hotels in the city of Hue by floodwaters triggered by heavy rains from a tropical depression, Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper said. At least 24 people had been killed and eight missing in seven provinces, disaster reports said. About 25,000 people had been evacuated to higher ground in the region battered by two typhoons and subsequent floods in the past six weeks. [Source: Metro.co.uk November 13, 2007 <<<]

“Nearly 150 old houses have been submerged in Hoi An town, a World Heritage site and a popular tourist destination in Quang Nam province, state media said. Floods peaked following rains of up to 1,450 mm (57 inches). Water levels were receding slowly while more rains were expected by Wednesday, a government report said on Tuesday. Deaths this week have raised the regional toll to 332 people, 114 of them since Oct. 26. <<<

“Damages were estimated at $350 million and rains disrupted the coffee harvest in the Central Highlands in the past two weeks. The harvest is already two weeks later than usual because of prolonged rains at the end of the wet season. But rains had stopped since Sunday, allowing growers to resume harvesting, an official in Daklak, the leading coffee growing province, said on Tuesday. Health officials warned people that floods could help spread bird flu in Quang Tri province. There is concern there will be more water polluted by duck excrement. Ducks act as carriers of the H5N1 bird flu virus, which they shed in their droppings. They also said contaminated water could cause more cases of acute diarrhoea, which has affected more than 1,600 people in northern and central Vietnam, 204 of whom were confirmed to have cholera bacteria.” <<<

Associated Press reported: “Soldiers, militiamen and local residents searched for hundreds of crocodiles on the loose in central Vietnam after they escaped from a farm during heavy floods. Sixty-seven crocodiles have already been captured or killed, but an unknown number continue to pose a danger to villagers in Khanh Hoa province, said Nguyen Nhu Long of the provincial military command. "We have sent in more soldiers to search for the animals because we are worried that they may crawl into people's houses in search of food," Long said. "They haven't been fed for several days now." The reptiles escaped at the weekend when flood waters knocked down a fence surrounding the state-owned Khanh Viet Farm, a popular tourist attraction that housed 5,000 crocodiles. [Source: AP, November 13, 2007 *-*]

“Several hundred people live in the immediate area of the farm. The crocodiles escaped into a stream that passes the farm and then joins a river flowing through several villages. "We have warned the villagers to be careful and asked them to call the authorities if they spot any crocodiles," said Khanh Hoa province's governor, Vo Lam Phi. Soldiers wielding AK-47 assault rifles shot dead 11 crocodiles as they crawled up a river bank on Monday, Long said, and villagers killed four others. "Each of them weighed from 200 kilograms to 250 kilograms (440 to 550 pounds), and it took seven or eight people to carry their dead bodies away," Long said. *-*

“Owners of the Khanh Viet Farm have offered a reward of up to $100 to anyone who returns one of the missing reptiles, which the company exports to several countries, including Japan and Australia. These are among the nearly 5,000 crocodiles at a farm in Vietnam's Khanh Hoa province that didn't escape over the weekend, but hundreds of others are thought to have been swept away by flooding.” *-*

Floods and Landslides in Vietnam in 2005

In December 2005, Reuters reported: “Flash floods triggered by prolonged rains in central Vietnam have killed at least 32 people in recent weeks and damaged rice crops, officials said. Rains which began in late November have inundated more than 30,000 hectares (74,130 acres) of newly-planted rice crops in the central provinces of Binh Dinh, Ninh Thuan and Quang Ngai, officials from the Committee for Flood and Storm Control told Reuters. "The weather is quite abnormal this year, waters in rivers in the central region have started to recede but we expect new rains over the weekend so people should stay alert," said an official from the center in central city of Danang. He said the official death toll from four central provinces of Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh, Khanh Hoa and Phu Yen, had risen to 32 and at least eight people remained missing after being washed away by flash floods. Heavy rains also triggered landslides in the central region, damaging roads and disrupting traffic. Prolonged rains in Vietnam's Central Highlands coffee belt have delayed the coffee harvest there and made it difficult for farmers to dry newly-picked coffee cherries. [Source: Reuters, December 16, 2005]

In October 2005, AFP reported: “Fifty-seven people have perished in floods ravaging the Mekong delta in southern Vietnam and in the central region over the last several weeks, according to the last official tolls released. The official Vietnam News Agency said four people died in central Binh Dinh province and 53 in the three southern provinces of An Giang, Dong Thap and Long An. Thousands hectares of rice and some dykes have been damaged VNA said. The agriculture sector in Mekong Delta provinces is encouraging farmers to clean their rice-fields to prepare for the cultivation of the winter-spring rice crop just after floodwaters recede. Thousands of people have been displaced by the floods that regularly hit the Mekong region. [Source: Agence France Presse, October 25, 2005]

Xinhua reported: “Floods in Vietnam's southern Mekong Delta have claimed 49 lives since the beginning of the flooding season in mid-August, local newspaper Youth reported. Of the victims, 36, mainly children, were drowned. The floods have damaged nearly 6,850 houses in the delta. Floods and whirlwinds sparked by a low tropical pressure in thecentral region late last week have also killed 15 people, left 5 others missing, and caused property losses of some 287 billion Vietnamese dong (VND) (nearly $18.2 million). [Source: Xinhua, October 12, 2005]

“ Eleven people in Vietnam's central region have been killed or left missing by floods caused by a tropical low pressure late last week, local newspaper Pioneer reported Monday. Seven victims were from Quang Binh province which faced flash floods fueled by heavy rain from Oct. 6-9. The floods inundated roughly 16,000 houses, damaged over 90,000 cubic meters of dykes, and killed many domestic animals, causing losses of more than 30 billion Vietnamese dong (VND) (nearly 1.9 million US dollars). Floods in Quang Tri province have claimed three human lives, seriously injured eight local residents, inundated some 25,000 houses and 1,200 hectares of crops, and damaged 50 fishing boats and ships, causing an estimated property loss of 100 billion VND (6.3 million dollars), it said. [Source: Xinhuanet, October 10, 2005]

Associated Press reported: “Seasonal flooding in Vietnam's southern Mekong Delta has killed 34 people, most of them children, an official said. Floods have inundated nearly 4,000 homes in the three worst-affected provinces, forcing the evacuation of some 20,000 people since the flood season started in mid-July, said a Ho Chi Minh City-based disaster official who identified himself only as Trung. Thirty-four people, including 30 children, have drowned in Dong Thap, Long An and An Giang provinces, he said. Most of the deaths occurred when children were left unattended at homes near canals that overflowed, Trung said. To reduce fatalities, authorities have set up 222 day-care centers for more than 5,300 children and taught nearly 6,900 others how to swim, he said. Trung said the government has permanently relocated 40,000 people to higher ground because their houses were vulnerable to flooding and plans to move another 160,000 in the next two years. [Source: Associated Press - October 6, 2005]

AFP reported: “The Vietnamese provinces of Dong Thap, An Giang and Long An, situated along the Cambodian border, were severely hit by the floods. Nineteen people, all but one of them children, were killed as waters in the Mekong went above the danger level in An Giang, a provincial flood control official told AFP Friday, adding they would "continue to rise in the days ahead." [Source: Agence France Presse, September 23, 2005]

Floods and Landslides in Vietnam in 2004

In November 2004, Reuters reported: “Floods and landslides have killed at least 40 people in Vietnam and 42 are missing, officials said on Monday, and elderly wooden houses inundated at a world heritage site are in danger of collapsing. The floods, sparked by torrential rains from Typhoon Muifa last week, have submerged 170,000 houses in five provinces and destroyed roads, cutting food relief to many areas. Thousands of people have fled their homes and an official said 270,000 people in just one of the affected provinces needed urgent help. [Source: Reuters, November 29, 2004 *+*]

“Officials said they had not been able to get relief supplies though to the mountainous district of Tay Tra, in Quang Ngai province, for four days due to landslides."We tried, but the road is blocked. Helicopters can not land," said a provincial official, who added that more landslides were feared. Scores of low, tile-roofed houses in the town of Hoi An in central Vietnam, declared a world heritage site in 1999 by the United Nations, appeared ready to collapse, state media quoted a local official as saying. More than 500 houses in the 16th-century trading center had been submerged in waters up to 2 meters (6 ft) deep. "The quality of 83 old houses has worsened seriously. They could collapse any time," Le Van Giang, chairman of Hoi An town People's Committee, was quoted as saying. Thua Thien Hue province officials told Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, who toured the flood-hit area on Sunday, that 270,000 people needed urgent help.” *+*

In October 2004, AFP reported: “The death toll from flooding in southern Vietnam's Mekong Delta has claimed 27 lives, while another nine people were killed after heavy storms lashed the region. "Twenty-seven people have died in the floods since the beginning of the month, of whom 23 were children," said an official from the Ho Chi Minh City-based regional flood and storm control committee. The worst affected provinces were Dong Thap, An Giang, Long An and Kien Giang, which all border Cambodia, he said, declining to give his name. "In these provinces we have had to evacuate 2,238 families from their homes, while 16,609 other households have been affected by floodwaters and thousands of hectares of rice fields have been partially destroyed." The death toll was expected to increase as water levels on the Mekong River and its tributaries continue to rise, he added. Meanwhile, heavy storms that swept across the Mekong Delta last week left nine children dead, all killed by falling debris, the official said.” [Source: Agence France Presse, October 11, 2004]

In July 2004, SBS World News reported: “Eighteen people have been killed and a further 16 are missing, feared dead, as a result of torrential rains that triggered flash floods and landslides in Vietnam's mountainous north. Forty-four people were also injured as a result of the storm that hit Ha Giang province and swept away 18 houses in the Yen Minh district. Police and soldiers had been deployed to search for the missing in two of the district's worst affected villages, home to the Hmong and Tay ethnic minorities, but say the chances of finding them alive are slim. Tan Xuan Hien, a district official, said five bodies were recovered on Tuesday and a further 13 were found a day later. The rains have not let up since Sunday, complicating rescue efforts in the province, which borders China. [Source: SBS World News, July 21, 2004]

Floods and Landslides in Vietnam in the Early 2000s

In October and November 2003, 58 people were killed in flash floods and landslides caused by heavy rains in central Vietnam in Binh Dinh and Quang Ngai provinces. Tens of thousands of homes were submerged and thousands of acres of crops were washed away. AFP reported: “The death toll from flash floods and landslides triggered by torrential rain in Vietnam's central provinces has climbed to 58, the local authorities say. Another person was still missing after severe flooding hit nine provinces, cutting off several villages and burying sleeping people alive. 'Tens of thousands of houses were submerged and over 3,000 of them collapsed or were completely destroyed. More than 30,000ha of rice crops, thousands of industrial crops and subsidised crops were also damaged,' an official said. It was the second time within weeks that the region was hit by torrential floods. At least 44 people died last month in the same area. [Source: Agence France Presse, November 16, 2003]

In 2002 around 170 people, the majority of them children, died during severe flooding in the Mekong Delta area. During the middle of the floods, AFP reported: “At least 61 people, including 56 children, have died in this year's annual flooding in Vietnam's southern Mekong Delta region, state media reported. A total of 11 people have been killed in the past week in the provinces of An Giang, Dong Thap and Long An, said the Lao Dong daily, warning that flood waters could rise further in the next few days. Children are the most vulnerable to the annual phenonemon that affects about eight million people in more than half of the 12 Delta provinces. So far, 54,000 houses have been flooded and nearly 700 kilometers (440 miles) of roads have been submerged in the Delta region, where more than 100,000 children have also been unable to attend school for the 10 days.[Source: Agence France Presse, September 20, 2002]

Associated Press reported: “Water swamped 46,000 homes in three provinces in the southern Mekong Delta, where more than 55,000 people have been evacuated, the Central Floods and Storms Control Department said. It said another 32,000 people still needed to be moved to higher ground in the provinces — Dong Thap, An Giang and Long An. Many of the children who died were left home alone by impoverished parents who were working or searching for food, which was scarce due to the floods. More than 300 temporary day-care centers have been set up and are taking care of 6,260 children, the department said. It said 235,000 people needed emergency food aid, but only 9,000 had received it so far. The floods, which began in late June, have inundated 560 kilometers (348 miles) of rural roads and prevented 109,000 children from starting the new school year, which began Sept. 5, the department said. Rice production in the Mekong Delta, the country's main rice growing region, has not been affected because farmers finished harvesting their crops before the floods. [Source: The Associated Press, September 13, 2002]

Mekong Flooding in 2000

In September 2000, AFP reported: “More than two million people across Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand are homeless as a result of the floods sweeping down the Mekong River, officials said. Up to a million people are without shelter in Vietnam, where thousands of families face hunger and epidemics as they camp in narrow dykes, they said. [Source: Agence France Presse, September 23, 2000 /=/]

"The situation will be even more worrying in the next few days as the (Mekong) delta is lower than its Cambodian branches," a disaster control official in southern Vietnam said. "The river's water levels are rising 5 to 15 centimeters each day in these areas, after hitting 5.02 meters on and several villages in the delta have been flooded in the last few days." According to Cambodia's national disaster relief committee, flood waters in southern Cambodia are continuing to rise, despite levels dropping in the north. /=/

“The Vietnamese disaster control official said yesterday there was a growing fear in the Mekong delta that "the pollution from the ground water has reached dangerous levels in certain areas of the delta". Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of rice as well as urgently needed medicine have been distributed to flood victims in the face of starvation and possible epidemics. Meanwhile, "the aid operation has proved to be very difficult in the outlying districts and is trying to cover a vast region of flooding", the official said. /=/

A day earlier AFP reported: “Flood levels in the upper Mekong River were rapidly receding as officials in Cambodia announced the worst was over despite there being little evidence of relief in the swollen Vietnam delta. The death toll in the Mekong delta rice bowl of Vietnam rose to 50 with flood waters showing no sign of abating from their highest levels in 40 years as torrents flushed down from further north in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. Despite the rising toll in Cambodia, where 137 people have died, officials said the worst appeared to be over as heavy rains in the north and in Southern Laos had let up, allowing water levels in the Mekong to drop by half a meter in 24 hours. [Source: Agence France Presse, September 22, 2000]

Record Low Floods May Harm Vietnam's '99 Rice Crop

In November 1998, Reuters reported: Record low flooding in Vietnam's fertile southern Mekong Delta may harm the nation's rice crop next year, officials said. "On the good side there will be no harm for infrastructure such as roads,'' a meteorologist in southern An Giang province said by telephone, referring to the low flooding. "But it will make problems for farmers because rice fields need natural cleaning from floods and insects could boom.'' [Source: Reuters, November 5, 1998 <<>>]

“The meteorologist said water levels would be sufficient for the high-yielding winter-spring rice crop now being planted in the delta. But he said higher salt levels in arable land would threaten the summer-autumn crop next year.He said this year's flooding peaked in the Mekong Delta rice bowl at only 2.81 meters (9.3 feet) above normal water levels at Tan Chau district. Tan Chau is one of two places where officials obtain data on water levels in the delta. The dry season normally begins in the delta around November. The previous lowest recorded floodwater level at Tan Chau was 3.14 meters (10.4 feet) in 1988, the meteorologist said. Rice traders have said the delta might record lower water levels in the coming six-month dry season but fears of serious drought hitting harvests in 1999 were overblown at this stage. <<>>

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, Fox News and various websites, books and other publications identified in the text.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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