Fear in Binh Thuan after real estate project wreaks havoc

By Viet Quoc   April 27, 2021 | 02:00 am PT
Many Binh Thuan residents are living in fear after their homes were flooded with muddy sand from an uphill real estate project during a downpour.

Almost a week after flood waters mixed with sand and mud from the Goldsand Hill Villa real estate project spilled over and into the Manta Sail Training Center that she runs, Julia Shaw continues to be fearful.

Disaster struck on the night of April 20 when sand and mud from the villa project suddenly spilled over a nearby road and flooded all houses and restaurants in the area, not to mention a car and five motorbikes.

When the muddy sand flowed into her bedroom, Shaw only had the time to rush outside with her dog.

Within 15 minutes, the mud and sand were all over the bedroom, the bar, and her storage space. Electric motorbikes, fridges, and all furniture were drowned in red slush.

The accident took place in the popular resort area of Mui Ne in Phan Thiet Town of the south central province of Binh Thuan.

Shaw, who is from the U.K., has lived in Mui Ne for almost 20 years. She has never experienced such fear until recently.

"I cannot imagine. This happened last year, and now it repeats. That project is bringing us disasters," she said.

Julia Shaw stands in her house, where her furniture and motorbike are overflowed by mud and sand, April 21, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Viet Quoc.

Julia Shaw in her house after a slushy mixture of mud and sand poured in, covering her furniture and motorbike, April 21, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Viet Quoc.

People in nearby houses and stores also feel the same way.

The red slush invaded Ngo Tien Ninh's restaurant. It took him two days to clean the mess, including a two-meter thick layer of sand. Worried about hygiene, many of his patrons have canceled their reservations.

Ninh said last year's spilled sand incident had cost him more than VND18 million ($780.50), and this year has upped the damage to more than VND100 million ($4,336), because a sand cleaning machine had crushed into his wall, making the restroom's roof crumble and breaking other equipment including his water pump.

The restaurant's name and prestige has suffered because many clients were worried about their own safety, he said.

"Since the accident happened, it rained every night and we had to stay up all night to watch out for sand flood," Ninh maintained.

The culprits

The Goldsand Hill Villa is not the only real estate project under construction on the 70-km long coastal road in Binh Thuan.

In November 2019, a reservoir in Tien Thanh Commune broke in the middle of the night, and the sand that gushed out tore the coastal road from Phan Thiet to Ke Ga Cape.

Some titanium mines in the area also pose a danger to local residents. In 2016, a waste reservoir in Ham Thuan Nam District broke, releasing a large amount of toxic sludge into a resort and the sea in the central province. This happened again three years later in Bac Binh District, killing one worker.

Le Van Tu, a Mui Ne resident, uses the coastal road every day, and cannot stop worrying.

If the sand dunes collapse when he passes by, it would be next to impossible to survive, Tu said.

The latest accident that buried a car and four motorbikes could have easily done that to humans.

"We hope the authorities and the project owners tackle the problem so we can live and travel without fear," Tu said.

Flows of water and sand from the uphill Goldsand Hill Villa real estate project. Photo by VnExpress/Viet Quoc.

How water and sand from the uphill Goldsand Hill Villa project puts those downhill in danger. Photo by VnExpress/Viet Quoc.

On April 24, Le Tuan Phong, Chairman of the People's Committee of Binh Thuan Province, asked the local construction department to investigate all travel projects and coastal construction on hills across the coastal areas of Phan Thiet, Bac Binh and Ham Thuan Nam Districts.

"We will deal with all non-compliance and other violations. The team will check and deal with the problem by the end of April," Phong said.

The provincial construction department says it has worked with owners of the Goldsand Hill Villa project and found most parts are in accordance with the planning documents and construction permits.

The ground, sidewalks and drainage systems in the project are okay, but the parts connecting the project with the Huynh Thuc Khang Street, including the local drainage system was not finished, the department said.

This was the main reason behind the rain washing down the sand and mud into people’s homes and other establishments on April 20.

Cao Son Dung, deputy head of Binh Thuan’s construction department, said the lack of drainage system's connection and safety measures, combined with heavy rain, triggered heavy flows and landslides, hurting nearby residential areas.

The project was fined VND25 million ($1,087) for "violating regulations on quality management of construction works."

Nguyen Van Hung, a project representative, acknowledged the responsibility of the investor, Loc Tu LLC company. In the last few days, more than 20 machines and 50 workers have cleaned sand and mud on Huynh Thuc Khang Street and from local houses. Hung said his company will compensate for the damage caused by the incident, but did not elaborate.

Workers have excavated and created 10 water containers (20m long, 15m wide, 5m deep) on the project site. Water pumps are in place to fill the containers in case of heavy rain, preventing heavy flows. But this is just a temporary measure, Hung said.

In the long run, the company will finalize the drainage system and build embankments, he added.

Hung also said the company has requested the local authority to resolve land disputes in the area so they can finish constructing their drainage system, but the problems remain.

"If we get the site cleared, we will immediately build the drainage system, and there will be no such accident."

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