Vietnam steps up rescue, evacuation after third deadly landslide

By Nguyen Dong   October 18, 2020 | 05:32 am PT
Vietnam steps up rescue, evacuation after third deadly landslide
Buildings of a military unit in Quang Tri Province in central Vietnam are buried following a landslide, October 18, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Tao.
The bodies of 13 soldiers buried in a landslide in the central province of Quang Tri early Sunday have been found, as forces are rushing to find the missing ones.

The Quang Tri incident is the third serious landslide that occurred in central Vietnam the past week, following torrential downpours. It hit at around 1 a.m. Sunday when 22 soldiers at the Defense Economics Division 337 under the Military Region 4 were in two buildings at their barracks in Huong Phung Commune, Huong Hoa District.

Hundreds of people joined rescue efforts from 2 a.m. and retrieved the 13 bodies by 5 p.m. Nine others are still missing.

The landslide came a few days after another killed 13 members of a rescue team, mostly soldiers, that had been on its way to look for workers buried by a landslide in the neighboring province of Thua Thien Hue. The first landslide, near the Rao Trang 3 hydropower plant, buried 17 workers and only two bodies have been found.

Two rescue hotspots

Lieutenant-General Nguyen Doan Anh, Commander of Military Region 4 that oversees the central region, said that at the Rao Trang 3 hydropower plant, the maximum number of people and vehicles were being mobilized to clear provincial Road 71 and find 15 people still reported missing.

"In addition to the rescue operations, we are also transporting food to isolated areas. Two workers of the Rao Trang 3 plant were found in its reservoir," Anh said at a meeting with leaders of the Ministry of National Defense, Military Region 4 and Thua Thien-Hue Province to discuss search and rescue work amidst the rains, floods and landslides that have hit central Vietnam, Thua Thien-Hue and Quang Tri Province in particular.

Anh said heavy rains have been buffeting Thua Thien-Hue for the last ten days. "Water levels in the Bo River peaked at 5.24 m at 12:05 a.m. on October 10, about 0.06 m higher than the historic flooding peak in 1999. Landslides triggered by the floods have isolated five districts with over 20 communes."

Phan Ngoc Tho, Thua Thien-Hue Chairman, said that searching for workers of the Rao Trang 3 hydropower plant was the province’s main task now, but this has been hampered over the last two days because of heavy rain.

The defense ministry and Military Region 4 have sent people with technical experience to clear Road 71 because it is blocked with rocks the size of cars, he said.

Deputy PM Trinh Dinh Dung asked the army and police to coordinate with local authorities to find "the fastest and shortest way" to rescue the victims, noting that the main tasks are those in Rao Trang 3 and in Huong Hoa District, Quang Tri.

Dung also requested local leaders, especially in Thua Thien-Hue and Quang Tri, to inspect dangerous places that are highly vulnerable to flooding and landslides so as to evacuate people in time. He noted that both residential and work areas, including those of under-construction hydropower plants, were dangerous areas.

"The Rao Trang 3 hydropower plant is a construction in progress. If the construction had been completed, it would not have been so dangerous. Therefore, the task is to evacuate all the people from the dangerous areas," Dung said at the meeting.

Nguyen Xuan Cuong, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that downpours of historic proportions have hit five provinces from October 6-11. Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue have experienced heavy rains for six consecutive days, causing heavy flooding, especially in the area of the Thach Han and Bo rivers in Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue, respectively.

Citing forecasts of heavy rains for another week, Cuong said this historic flooding would inflict further serious damage on the central region.

After 12 days of heavy rains, floods and landslides in central Vietnam, the death toll has reached 84 by Sunday evening, with 38 still missing.

A memorial service was held Sunday morning in Thua Thien-Hue for the 13 officers and soldiers who lost their lives in a rescue mission due to a landslide near the Rao Trang 3 hydropower plant in the central province.

go to top