Migrants stay back in deserted HCMC for Tet work

By Gia Minh   February 12, 2021 | 02:43 am PT
Residents in other localities have stayed back in HCMC, using space freed up by the Tet holiday to speed up work on ongoing projects.

Thursday noon, a day before Tet, the Lunar New Year, when most migrants return home to celebrate the most auspicious and important event with loved ones, a group of more than 10 engineers and workers were working like any normal day. They were working on a project to build an underpass at the junction of Nguyen Van Linh and Nguyen Huu Tho streets in District 7.

Most of the workers in the group are from the Mekong Delta provinces of Can Tho, Long An and Tien Giang. Though their hometowns are not very far from the city, they won’t return home for the Lunar New Year.

They have good reasons for not returning. For one, they can take advantage of the Tet break when not many people are on the streets to speed up work, as encouraged by the city administration and the project investor. Also, they want to earn more money to make up for a year when their income was slashed heavily by the pandemic.

"It is heartbreaking that I am not home now to with my family, but I’ve pushed myself to try and work harder. I can visit home after Tet," said Nguyen Truong Nghia, 28, a native of Can Tho City.

Nguyen Truong Nghia works at an underpass in HCMCs District 7, February 11, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Minh

Nguyen Truong Nghia works at an underpass in HCMC's District 7, February 11, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Minh.

Nguyen Nam Hai, in charge at the construction site, said that during the seven-day Tet break that started Wednesday, workers will work in two shifts as usual – one in the morning and another in the afternoon.

"Apart from Tet, which allows people to stay at home longer, the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak has prevented them going out, which creates good conditions to speed up the project," he said.

Since January 28, when community transmissions returned to Vietnam after 55 clean days, the cluster in HCMC is yet to be contained.

Work began on the underpass last April to ease the burden for traffic flow in the southern part of the city. The entire project will see two underpasses running under the junction. It is expected that both will be completed within next year.

Seven kilometers (4.35 miles) away from the underpass, around 30 engineers and workers are also working hard on upgrading the Nguyen Huu Canh Street, which runs through Binh Thanh District to link downtown District 1 with District 2.

As this route is the artery for the eastern gateway of the city and usually attracts a large number of vehicles, the Tet break grants more time for this crucial project to be finished on time.

Pham Thanh Tuan, 32, said his wife and he have decided to stay back to save the cost of traveling home in the northern province of Thai Binh, and earn some extra income to take care of their six-year-old son.

Pham Thanh Tuan at the construction site to upgrade Nguyen Huu Canh Street in HCMCs Binh Thanh District, February 11, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Minh

Pham Thanh Tuan at the construction site to upgrade Nguyen Huu Canh Street in HCMC's Binh Thanh District, February 11, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Minh.

The project to upgrade the 3.2 km-long street by elevating subsided sections notorious for causing frequent flooding was launched in October last year at a cost of VND470 billion ($20.39 million).

Scheduled for completion in April, around 65 percent of the project has been completed – that of elevating the surface of the street at severely subsided sections while keeping other parts at the same height to ensure the water drainage system works well.

Tuan and other workers are working on a 500-meter-long section of the street from an underpass in front of The Manor building to the Nguyen Huu Canh Overpass that typically suffers the heaviest subsidence. The section has been lifted by 50 cm to 1.2 m.

This is the first time that Tuan and his wife are spending Tet in HCMC.

He said: "The salary during Tet days is three times higher than normal days and therefore, I have decided to stay and work. Throughout last year, because of the pandemic, my wife and I have suffered financially, so we’re trying to make up for that."

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