Death Toll Climbs in Vietnam, Laos Heavily Flooded Following Major Storm


2020-10-30
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laos-napaeflood2-102920.jpg Napae village in Borikhamxay province in Laos is shown under water in an Oct. 29, 2020 photo.
Citizen Journalist

At least 35 people have been reported killed, with more than 50 missing, after a typhoon slammed into central regions of Vietnam this week, state media and other news services said on Thursday. The storm also set off landslides and knocked out power lines, leaving 1.7 million people in the dark.

Storm Molave, the ninth storm this year in the South China Sea and the most powerful to hit Vietnam in 20 years, struck coastal provinces on Oct. 28 with heavy rainfall and winds as high as 115-135 km per hour, according to data provided by Vietnam’s National Center for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting on Wednesday.

Landslides in central provinces have killed at least 19 people and buried more than 40 others, the Associated Press reported on Thursday, adding that the bodies of 12 fishermen missing since the storm hit on Wednesday were recovered on Thursday, leaving another 14 still unaccounted for.

Around 56,000 houses were stripped of their roofs in Quang Ngai, where a massive blackout from downed power lines left more than a million people trapped in darkness as high winds tore through the province, according to state-controlled Vietnam News, AP said.

Wednesday’s storm hit central regions already devastated by weeks of heavy rains, floods, and landslides beginning Oct. 6 that left at least 130 dead and thousands displaced. The floods and landslides also wrecked highways and roads, blocking efforts to rescue and bring supplies to many cut off from help in remote areas.

Speaking to RFA on Thursday, residents in storm-hit provinces described fast-rising waters and devastated fields, with one saying that floodwaters had risen more quickly now than they had during the storms that battered the area earlier this month.

“During previous storms and floods, the water rose only to the height of my hand. But now the water rose so high that my house was submerged,” Hien Thao, a resident of Quang Tri province, speaking to RFA on Oct. 29.

“I lost 500 kg of paddy rice, and many of my household belongings were washed away,” he said.

“Yesterday, the water rose up to the yard of my house,” added 40-year-old Phan Quoc Vu of Truong Xa commune in Cam Lo district’s Cam Hieu village in Quang Tri. “But luckily it began to recede today,” he said.

“In the opinion of my 80-year-old father, this was the worst storm flooding that he can remember,” Vu said.

Calls for help

At the height of the flood, Vu called unsuccessfully to local authorities for help, and even posted calls for help on social media, but finally had to hire canoes to help evacuate elderly people and young children to safer ground, he said.

In Ninh Thuan province, villagers had made their living mainly through farming and raising shrimp, said Tran Thanh Truc, a resident of the province’s Hien Luong commune.

“But the floodwaters washed everything away—pigs, chickens, and shrimp,” she said. “We are glad to receive whatever help others can give us, but it will be difficult to make up for everything that was lost.”

In Quang Tri, supplies including large quantities of rice have been received so far only from volunteers, Hien Thao said, adding that the local People’s Committee has promised to bring relief goods soon.

“I also learned that the government will provide us with seeds for farming our next crop in the winter and spring.”

“We would like them to also give us boats and other equipment we need, along with rice that will help us while we wait for our next crop to be ready for harvest,” he said.

In Truong Xa commune, officials have cared so far only for their own relatives, though, Pham Quoc Vu said.

“They are not impartial, which is causing much suspicion,” he said.

Heavy rains, flooding in Laos

In Laos, heavy rains and flooding from Wednesday’s storm damaged or destroyed around 51,000 hectares of agricultural production, including more than 23,000 hectares of rice fields, across 13 districts of Savannakhet province, state media sources said on Friday.

Total losses in farm production and livestock from flooding in the storm are now estimated at 283 billion kip (U.S. $6,257,968.), Keoodom Souliya—an official from the province’s Agriculture and Forestry Department—said on Thursday.

In the southern province of Champassak, strong winds toppled power lines, while in Borikhamxay province, Khamkeut district’s Napae village was completely destroyed by floods, a video obtained by RFA showed on Friday, with a narrator on the video saying Napae had now become “a sea of water.”

The video also showed floods and landslides blocking the road leading from Napae to the Naphao International Border Checkpoint with Vietnam.

A rice paddy being harvested was also under water, Phetsamai Xayaathichak told local media. “We will announce the exact amount of local damage later, once we know what it is,” he said.

A total number of deaths in Laos resulting from the storm was not immediately available.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese and Lao Services. Translated by Huy Le and Max Avary. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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