Quang Binh suffers worst flooding in 41 years

By Nguyen Dong, Hoang Phuong   October 21, 2020 | 11:40 pm PT
As central Vietnam remains bombarded by heavy downpours the past two weeks, Quang Binh Province has seen flooding eclipse 1979 records by nearly a meter.

Hoang Tan Trong, watching over the family farm in Dong Hoi Town with his father and pregnant wife, witnessed floods tear through his home on the night of October 19. Dao, Trong’s wife, was sitting on their bed, suspended in the air thanks to four ropes connecting it to the roof. But with the walls damaged, the bed wobbled about two meters above ground, leaning to the side.

Seeing what happened, Trong's father, 64-year-old Hoang Tan Truong, immediately jumped into the water and tried securing the ropes, lest Dao fell into the water below.

"We can't just stay here and suffer like this. We need to find a safer house," Dao said. That night, Trong rented a motorboat and brought the whole family to the town center, about 2 km away.

Trong later returned to his old home to herd his 30 remaining chickens out of 200 into tree branches to avoid the flood. His three dogs were given to a relative the next day for safe keeping.

"This is the most severe flood since my birth," Trong, 44, remarked.

Hoang Tan Trongs house is flooded in Quang Binh Province, October 21, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong.

Hoang Tan Trong's destroyed home in Quang Binh Province, October 21, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong.

In Dong Hoi, Pham Thanh Hien, 66, frantically relocated his belongings as half-a-meter-deep floodwater swept through his home. A long time resident, Hien said the fact water could invade the house when hydropower plants have yet to discharge water was "unprecedented."

Since October 6, heavy rains have inundated the lowlands of Quang Binh. While not suffering fatal landslides like Thua Thien-Hue or Quang Tri provinces, Quang Binh has been the most severely flooded.

The October 19 flood managed to submerge thousands of houses, making even the most hardy residents shudder in fear.

From 1 a.m. on October 16 to 5 p.m. October 20, Quang Binh recorded rainfall of up to 1,380 mm in certain areas. The most heavily flooded was in Le Thuy District, with over 32,000 houses swamped. Throughout the entire province, around 105,000 homes have been similarly affected.

People use makeshift rafts to get around on flooded streets in Le Thuy District, Quang Binh Province, October 20, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa.

A family travels by makeshift raft in Le Thuy District, Quang Binh Province, October 20, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa.

Tran Cong Thuat, chairman of Quang Binh, said: "Floods this year have eclipsed the record peak in 1979 by up to 0.98 m." The historic flood peak was recorded on Kien Giang River at 3.91 m. This year, however, the peak remained at 4.89 m for several consecutive days.

"The flood came at night so it was very powerful. The peak was too high, catching certain areas off guard," Thuat added. On the night of October 19 alone, thousands of people throughout Quang Binh have called out for help via their phones or social media.

"We still lack boats, but we are doing our best to help alleviate the suffering," he said.

Floods in Quang Binh this year not only set new records, but also receded very slowly. By the morning of October 21, traffic across the province remained crippled due to several flooded locations. Over the last fews days, people have confined themselves to their homes, with many of their pets, livestock and vegetables perishing in the water.

It would take a long time for Quang Binh to recover following this historic flood, according to Thuat. As Storm Saudel approaches Vietnamese shores, the province has prepared plans to support people with necessities and food for the coming days.

"During the first days when flood levels rose quickly, we were met with many challenges. But now that the water’s receding, we’ve been surveying heavily flooded and isolated houses so we could perform rescue operations and provide supplies more easily. We would not allow any family to be abandoned amid the flooding," said Thuat.

As of Thursday afternoon, at least 10 people have died in Quang Binh due to floods. Over 7,500 tons of food were soaked in water, while several roads and other infrastructure in the province have either been flooded or damaged. Around 30,000 families have had to be evacuated.

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