Natural disasters cost Vietnam $1.6 bln in 2020

By Nguyen Quy   December 24, 2020 | 01:00 am PT
Natural disasters cost Vietnam $1.6 bln in 2020
A man rows his boat to evacuate a woman and her grandchildren to safe area in Ha Tinh Province amid severe flooding, October 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Hung.
Natural disasters like storms, floods and drought caused damage worth VND37.4 trillion ($1.6 billion) in 2020, five times last year's losses.

They left 357 people dead or missing compared to 133 last year, according to figures released this week by the Central Steering Committee on Natural Disaster Prevention and Control.

Vietnam was hit by 14 storms and several depressions that triggered heavy flooding and landslides this year.

The central region was hit by historic flooding between late September and mid-November.

Its casualties included 35 military officers and men from two different units, who had been on search and rescue missions after landslides hit several districts in the provinces of Thua Thien-Hue and Quang Tri, arguably Vietnam's biggest military loss during peacetime.

Seventeen workers at a hydropower plant in Thua Thien-Hue Province were buried in a landslide on October 12, but only six of their bodies have been found so far.

Later the same month three deadly landslides in mountainous districts in Quang Nam Province killed 18 people.

Of the storms that hit the central region, Molave, which made landfall over Quang Nam and Quang Ngai in October, was one of the most powerful in the last two decades, and claimed at least 33 lives and caused losses of around VND10 trillion ($430.16 million).

Linfa, which made landfall over the central region on October 11, brought heavy rains, floods and landslides that killed at least 130 people, destroyed 1,000 houses and inundated 120,000 others, prompting the government to call for removing it from the list of storm names in the western Pacific due to the destruction it wreaked.

The government has provided around VND770 billion to the region as emergency relief. Many international organizations and countries such as the U.S., the U.K. and Australia have also provided aid.

International climate scientists plan to study central Vietnam’s storm-triggered flooding to determine the role of climate change in the region’s extreme weather.

The steering committee's report also said the Mekong Delta continued suffering severe drought and salt intrusion this year. This summer saltwater intruded 50-110 kilometers into major rivers in the delta, even deeper than in 2016 when the delta recorded the worst drought in a century.

The lack of freshwater lasted more than six months, leaving 80,000 families high and dry, and damaged 43,000 hectares of paddy. The government provided VND350 billion worth of assistance to the region. Six provinces, Ben Tre, Ca Mau, Kien Giang, Long An, Soc Trang and Tien Giang, declared an emergency over the salinity.

The delta is home to 17.5 million people, or a fifth of the country's population, and was identified as one of the most vulnerable in the world to climate change.

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