Storm, Flooding Wreak Havoc in Southeast Asia

2013-10-01
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Residents of Ky Anh district in central Vietnam's Ha Tinh province take shelter behind a fallen tree as Typhoon Wutip batters the country's coast on Sept. 30, 2013.
AFP

Scores of people have been killed and tens of thousands made homeless and evacuated as storms and floods battered Cambodia, Vietnam, and several other Southeast Asian nations in recent weeks, officials say.  

At least 27 have died mostly from floods in Vietnam, which is also reeling from devastation caused by Typhoon Wutip, which hit its central coast.

In Cambodia, at least 30 lives have been lost in floods, which forced the closure of hundreds of schools at the start of the new semester, while in neighboring Thailand, more than 20 people died as 32 of 77 provinces experienced flooding since mid-September.

Typhoon Wutip, the strongest storm to hit the region this year, left a trail of destruction after it made landfall in central Vietnam late Monday, weakening as it moved inland into Laos and Thailand.

At least three people were killed by Wutip in Vietnam, and search parties have recovered the bodies of two Chinese fishermen who drowned after their boat sank in waters whipped up by the typhoon in the South China Sea.

Chinese naval ships and aircraft deployed to the area have found about 14 survivors from the sunken fishing ships so far and are still searching for another 58, according to Beijing’s state news agency Xinhua.

The storm also brought torrential rains to the Vietnamese coastal areas with sustained winds of up to 133 kilometers per hour (83 miles per hour), according to Vietnam’s National Weather Center. The storm tore up roofs and left sea dykes damaged and electricity lines torn up.

Another 23 people were injured and 29,000 households were evacuated in central Vietnam, the country’s flood and storm control department said, while state media reported 250,000 houses and tens of thousands hectares of crops were destroyed or damaged.

Relief efforts in Vietnam

Officials in Vietnam’s Quang Binh, Quang Tri, and Ha Tinh provinces said local authorities began relief efforts on Tuesday to help those whose property or homes were destroyed.

Nguyen Duc Chinh, standing vice chairman for Quang Tri, said Typhoon Wutip was the strongest in Vietnam since the Xangsane typhoon which devastated the southern city of Da Nang seven years ago.  

“It is the strongest typhoon we have suffered since 2006,” he told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.

“According to the preliminary data, 3,670 houses lost roofs, 11 houses were destroyed together with 6,900 hectares of rubber trees while about 5,000 hectares of rice and other crops were damaged,” he said Tuesday.

Immediate relief efforts have focused on helping the injured and those whose homes were damaged, and authorities will turn their attention to restoring agricultural production later, he said.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has put local authorities on high alert for flash floods and landslides.

Two men in Quang Binh province died when they were crushed by a radio antenna that collapsed in the storm, while the third reported fatality was caused by a collapsed wall that buried a 40-year-old man.

Father Nguyen Van Vinh, a priest from the Catholic relief group Cartilas in nearby Vinh city which has been conducting relief efforts in the area and meeting with victims’ families, said that so far the storm had left relatively little flooding in its wake.

“This time we haven’t had floods after the storm, so we haven’t had to gather food,” he said.

Up to 300 millimeters (12 inches) of rain fell on Vietnam from Friday to Monday, leaving some roads impassable, the flood department said, according to state media.

Floods in Cambodia

In Cambodia, this year’s flooding has affected some 70,000 people in 12 provinces, a report by the country’s National Disaster Management Committee said this week.

Cambodia usually sees heavy rains from August through October, but this year’s flooding has already proved deadlier than last year’s when 14 people were killed, though the situation is not as bad as in 2011, when 250 died.

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A man walks his bike along a flooded street in Cambodia's Siem Reap, Oct. 1, 2013. Photo credit: RFA.
Committee President  Nhim Vannda warned residents Tuesday to remain on alert for rising water levels.

“The floods are receding, but the water is flowing toward Kandal and Phnom Penh, and in Prey Veng we are taking measures to resolve these issues,” he told RFA’s Khmer Service.

Ministry of Education Hang Chhoun Naron said about 331 schools across the country had been closed for the Oct. 1 start of the new school year because of the flooding.

“Normally this lasts about a week. In the case that the flooding continues longer than that, we will extend the hours of instruction,” he said.  

Six people believed to be Syrians died late on Sunday in Cambodia’s Prey Veng province when their car was swept away in floodwater, police said.

Laos, Thailand spared storm

Laos and Thailand were mostly spared the devastating effects of the storm, but both countries have seen deadly flooding in recent weeks amid heavy seasonal rains that have raised water levels on the key Mekong River regional artery.

In neighboring Laos last week, flooding ravaged Champassak province in the southwest, causing three deaths and affecting some 9,000 families and damaging thousands of acres of rice fields.

A Champassak official speaking on condition of anonymity told RFA that local authorities would help fund emergency assistance efforts by collecting 200,000 kip (U.S. $25) from each resident in the province.

In August, 15 people died from floods in Oudomxay province, following floods in Borikhamxay province at the end of July.

As Wutip’s effects moved into Laos Monday night and early Tuesday, authorities in Borikhamxay, Khammuan, and Savannakhet provinces said the storm had brought some rain and wind to central areas, but not enough to cause serious damage, the state-run Vientiane Times reported.

In Thailand, Deputy Prime Minister Podprasop Suraswadi said the country was not at risk from Wutip but should be prepared for other storms.

Reported by RFA’s Khmer, Lao, and Vietnamese Services. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.