Vietnam’s largest island suffers historic flooding

By Cuu Long    August 9, 2019 | 05:05 pm GMT+7
Vietnam’s largest island suffers historic flooding
People are evacuated from a flooded area in Phu Quoc Island, August 9, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Tuan.

As Phu Quoc Island experiences the worst flood in its history, officials point fingers at climate change and urbanization.

On Friday morning, hundreds of local families were evacuated to schools, government offices and relatives’ houses after heavy downpours hit the island district in the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang.

Phu Quoc has been battered by continuous heavy rains since August 2. The rainfall recorded the past week by the province's Center for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting was 1,100 mm, a record.

Rainfall of 335 mm was recorded between Thursday night and Friday afternoon. Rainfall of 180 mm a day is considered heavy.

The island had 34 km of its roads submerged in 0.6 - 1.5 meters. Nearly 3,900 houses were flooded, 14 others collapsed and lost their roofs and a large area of agricultural crops were destroyed, causing initial damage of about VND70 billion ($3 million).

Friday’s evacuation was the second of the week. On Tuesday, many families were forced to move to safer areas after many parts of the island were inundated.

"Yesterday (Thursday) when the water receded, my wife and I came back to our house to clean up and open the door to our grocery shop.

"But just several hours later, torrential rains returned, forcing us to move to our relative’s house," said Tran Thanh Tan, 65, who lives on Cach Mang Thang Tam Street in Duong Town Town, the capital of Phu Quoc.

Flooded airport

Phu Quoc International Airport, which connects to Vietnam's major cities Hanoi, HCMC and several Asian destinations, had to suspend operation between 9 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. on Friday as its runway was 0.3 meters under water on Friday.

Nguyen Minh Dong, director of the airport, said 1,560 customers were stuck at the airport during that time.

As of Friday afternoon, the rains hadn’t stopped, and heavy flooding has isolated many communes.

"We are mobilizing rescue forces to ensure safety for local residents," said Tran Van Viet, a local official, adding that he could not provide any other information in the current situation.

Phu Quoc's Vice Chairman Huynh Quang Hung said: "We are evacuating people from dangerous places, assigning local forces to stand ready in flood-hit areas to cope with bad situations, ensuring safety for people."

A police car shows up on a street in Phu Quocs Duong Dong Town to warn people to stay away from danger. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dung.

A police car shows up on a street in Phu Quoc's Duong Dong Town to warn people to stay away from danger. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dung.

Officials of the district People's Committee blamed the flooding on climate change and fast-growing urbanization.

The huge amount of rainfall over the past days, combined with rising sea levels, had affected the drainage system that takes water to the sea. Furthermore, the drainage system in Duong Dong Town was built 16 years ago, when the population density was significantly less.

Over the past 10 years, urbanization has been rapid and haphazard in Phu Quoc and it does not have the infrastructure to handle the growth, officials said.

With a total area of 589.2 square kilometers (145,600 acres), Phu Quoc is Vietnam’s largest island. It has a population of 145,000. It is also a popular travel destination, attracting 407,000 visitors in July.

The southwestern monsoon and tropical depressions in the East Sea, internationally known as the South China Sea, would continue to trigger downpours in the Central Highlands and southern Vietnam, the National Center for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting said Thursday.

Six people were killed on Wednesday and Thursday after prolonged, heavy rains triggered floods in the Central Highlands region, which produces most of the country's coffee, a major export.

Natural disasters, mostly floods, storms and landslides, killed 181 people, left 37 others missing and caused losses of around VND20 trillion ($858 million) in Vietnam last year.

 
 
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