Local Vietnamese Officials Say Dam Operators Made Flooding Worse

2016-10-17
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People take to boats in Vietnam's central provinces as flooding hammers the country, Oct. 2016.
People take to boats in Vietnam's central provinces as flooding hammers the country, Oct. 2016.
RFA

Local officials are blaming the operators of the Ho Ho Hydroelectric Plant for making the deadly flooding in Vietnam’s Ha Tinh Province worse by suddenly releasing water held back by the dam.

Le Ngoc Huan, chairman of the province’s Huong Khe district people’s committee, told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that Ho Ba Company officials failed to notify people below the dam of the massive water release that came on Oct. 14 as torrential rain pounded the country.

In this case, Huan accused the dam operators of opening the flood gates at the wrong time. Ho Ba Company officials should have opened the flood gates some days earlier once they learned that a tropical-low was preparing to hit Vietnam during what meteorologist say is one of the strongest monsoons in many years, he said.

Flooding in Vietnam is being blamed for killing at least 25 people and destroying thousands of homes, government officials said on Monday, as the country braced for even further destruction with typhoon Sarika closing in on the country.

The rain has been intensified by the El Niño natural phenomenon which sees Pacific water temperatures rise and leads to severe weather worldwide.

While the floods hit Quang Binh province the hardest, Ha Tinh was also hard hit.

Ho Ho Hydro Plant director Vu Manh Hung disputed Huan’s accusations, saying the company followed the “right process” because it had notified surrounding villages so that local people could evacuate.

While Hung defended the company, the Ministry of Commerce sent in a team to investigate the disaster.

The provincial Irrigation Department said the Ho Ho hydropower plant discharged between 500-1,800 cubic meters a second on Friday night, while another hydroelectric facility, the Boc Nguyen plant discharged 150-200 cubic meters per second, according to a report by VNExpress International.

‘Something abnormal’

“The investigative delegation of Ministry of Commerce was set up late yesterday because they found something abnormal,” said journalist Nguyen Quang Vinh.

Local authorities confirmed to RFA that they asked the dam operators to postpone the water release, and accused the company of being more concerned with protecting the reservoir on the Ngan Sau River than on protecting the people below the dam.

A top district official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said no one answered his calls to the company when he was attempting to get the company to delay the water release so people could flee.

“Local people mainly rescued themselves,” said journalist Hoang Duc said. “They climbed to high ground or rocks or ran to the Ho Chi Minh Highway to avoid the danger.”

“The discharge was so sudden that within 30 minutes the water rose from one to two meters,” he added. “It is terrible. The people of Huong Khe are in extreme difficulty.”

Tran Chinh Truc, a parish vicar in Quang Binh province, described the damage as severe.

“Seven parishes in Tuyen Hoa district have reported so far around 6,000 flooded houses and five deaths,” he said. “There are 170 houses that are completely inundated in my parish alone.”

Reported by Than Pham for RFA's vietnamese Service. Translated by An Nguyen. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.

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