Da Nang residents count losses after epic flooding havoc

By Nguyen Dong   October 18, 2022 | 05:52 am PT
Tran Quang Trung couldn’t recognize his own home. It was as though someone had ransacked it in great rage. He had no idea where to start picking up the pieces.

Red fresh mud was knee-deep at the entrance to Trung's house in a narrow alley in Lien Chieu District Monday's morning.

Trung remained in the midst of the rubble that his house had been reduced to as his wife went to the alley entrance to mop up the mud with neighbors.

With a sinking heart, Trung looked around. An iron bar propped up a collapsed brick wall. The TV that had hung on the wall had been washed away. A water line on the wall indicated the extent to which the house had been flooded. Only the shoulders of a set of wooden table with chairs were visible. The rest was buried in muck. A few second and fifth grade text books remained on a shelf, but they were also covered with dirt.

"I don't know where to begin. There’s nothing left in the house now. Even VND2 million ($81.83) I had left in the bedroom is gone."

Tran Quang Trung in his home which has been destroyed by floodwater. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong

Da Nang resident Tran Quang Trung looks at the devastation caused by flooding after he returns to his house last weekend. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong

According to him, the entire neighborhood lost electricity around 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 14.

They were eating in the living room by the light of a rechargeable lamp when Trung, his wife, and their two children noticed a rumbling sound coming from behind the home. The wall adjacent to Hong Quang Primary School's fence crumbled in an instant. The floodwaters plunged into the home "like a giant wave" and he was hurt when a piece of the wall smashed into his right hip.

Two motorcycles, which he and his wife relied on to get to and from work and pick up their two kids, were swept away by the flood.

After Trung moved his son to a neighbor's house, he returned to see if he could salvage anything, but the fierce stream had inundated everything. Everyone had a restless night of sleep.

When the water retreated the next morning, he saw desolation as he waded through the fresh mud. Fortunately, a group of teenage volunteers cleaning up the streets over a kilometer from their home discovered their motorcycles.

But the couple grieved when their home, which had cost around VND300 million to construct six years ago and on which they still owed more than VND70 million, was left ruined in the aftermath of the storm.

"It could be because of water pouring from Hoang Van Thai Street, knocking down the school's fence, and then falling on my wall, causing it to collapse," he explained, adding that he had never witnessed such a wrecking flood in Da Nang in over 40 years.

Impacts of Storm Son Ca, which devolved into an offshore tropical depression Friday night, was especially severe in Da Nang, with rain levels recorded from 7 p.m. last Friday to 6 a.m. last Saturday reaching up to 775 millimeters. All seven districts in the city were inundated by up to 1.5 meters.

When the water receded, many people were left empty-handed since much of their property got swept away by the flood or severely destroyed.

Not only were several roads clogged with abandoned vehicles in need of removal by rescue workers, but also littered with trash, consisting largely of broken furniture and kitchenware.

A shop leaves its wet mattresses and sleeping nets out in the sun to dry at the foot of an overpass in Da Nang City.

A shop lays out its wet mattresses and sleeping nets out in the sun to dry below an overpass in Da Nang City. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong

Broke and lost

As the waters recede, many people have been left empty-handed, their properties and assets swept away or severely destroyed by the flood.

Numerous motorcycles were lost even after being moved temporarily to higher ground. The floodwaters damaged many laptops, desktops, mattresses, televisions, refrigerators and motorcycles.

As Nguyen Thi Em hung up her children’s schoolbooks to dry, she had to consider the fact that she might have to stop using the TV and fridge since she couldn’t afford to get them fixed.

"My home is located in the city's zoning plan, and despite repeated requests to the authorities, we have been denied permission to rebuild our house higher. So, every time it rains heavily, my house gets flooded," the 51-year-old said.

Thao, 33, stated that barely 20% of her stuff was left in her house in Hoa Vang District after the flooding. When colleagues learnt of her plight, they went out and bought some clothes for Thao’s baby girl.

Since her home was close to the Tuy Loan River, her family erected a makeshift scaffolding around two meters high to protect their possessions before the floodwaters submerged their home at night.

They had to move to the attic for shelter when floodwaters rose quickly. A few hours later, district police rescued Thao and her family when the rising waters were just 30 centimeters short of the attic.

Next afternoon, she would that all her furniture was damaged, more than 50 hens had perished, her rice seeds had been ruined, and many other valuables had been washed away. She said she did not want to talk at length about her pain because so many people were experiencing it.

Ultimate loss

On the evening of October 14, the flood killed six people in Da Nang, including two students. One of them was a 16-year-old schoolgirl, the daughter of 38-year-old, Huynh Thi Nguyen Huong. Her house in Hoa Khanh Nam Ward has been stuck in mud on all sides for two days.

Huong and her husband had relocated from Quang Nam Province to Da Nang to start a new life.

After the Covid-19 pandemic, her husband relocated to Quang Binh to work as a laborer. Huong as working for a lunch service company and was out of town during the flooding.

When she heard about the heavy rain on the evening of October 14, she urged her four children – one boy and three girls - to put their belongings in high places and wait for her to come back.

When the water began to rise inside the house, the children heard the sounds of rescuers approaching, but they lacked the strength to lift the corrugated iron roof and shout for aid.

The elder sister plunged into the water with her brother in tow to open the door. The water rushed in from the outside as soon as the door opened and swept the children away. Two of them managed to grab on to the neighbor’s roof. The boy clung to the door and shouted for help. The three children were saved, but the oldest sister was swept away.

City officials send out crane trucks and garbage trucks to clean up Da Nang streets following the flooding.

Shovel and garbage trucks deployed to clean up Da Nang’s streets following the flooding. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong

Normalcy returns, but...

Da Nang had limped back to its normal rhythm by the afternoon of October 17.

Shovel trucks were sent in to help with the cleanup by removing the mud and damaged goods from people's homes on the streets.

Many people's most valuable possessions were swept away by the floodwaters and thousands of cars and motorcycles were taken to garages for repairs.

Weather experts said the tropical depression that devolved from storm Son Ca combined with a cold spell from the north, an intertropical convergence zone and the northeast monsoon winds to cause the abnormally high rainfall.

The flooding was also worsened Friday night by high tides in the central stretch from Thua Thien Hue to Phu Yen provinces, including Da Nang.

To Van Hung, director of Da Nang's Department of Natural Resources and Environment, said the extent of the damage caused by the flood was still being assessed, but it was clear that many people had lost all their possessions.

It was not clear when people would be able to reconstruct their lives after the loss of thousands of vehicles, homes and other properties, he said.

Meanwhile people like Trung and Em are at a loss, not knowing where and how to start their journey back to a semblance of normalcy.

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