VnExpress Hope Foundation prepares disaster relief for Quang Nam victims

By Hope Foundation   October 31, 2020 | 10:12 pm PT
VnExpress Hope Foundation prepares disaster relief for Quang Nam victims
A landslide that buried a village of 100 square meters central Quang Nam Province's Nam Tra My District on October 28,2020, as seen from above. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.
Early afternoon last Thursday, a foreign reader, visited the VnExpress office in Ho Chi Minh City. She introduced herself as Michelle from Melbourne in Australia.

"I work in Vietnam. I read the news and saw that you are donating to victims of flooding in the central region. So what can I contribute? I would like to call for some goods donations from friends."

Michelle’s gesture is most timely. The people of Quang Nam Province need all the help they can get.

Hundreds of people have been working hard for several days in the central province, looking for people missing after landslides hit Nam Tra My District's Tra Leng and Tra Van communes and Phuoc Son District's Phuoc Loc and Phuoc Thanh Communes.

In Tra Leng, the "Ong De's roof" residential area that housed 14 houses is just a vast swathe of mud at the foot of the local mountain now.

A "Chemistry 9" textbook with the name "Dinh Thi Thanh Thao" written inside is one of the few things that have survived.

On October 30, two days after the landslide, Ho Van Hai and six of his schoolmates from the Nam Tra My Boarding School were brought back by their teachers to "find their houses."

The teachers didn't let their students know what had happened beforehand, worried that the shock would be too much. They also didn't let them return "home" immediately as the 35-kilometer journey still posed danger from flooding and landslides.

Hai's house is now just the grave of his father lying next to where the landslide it. The scene is heart rending, a slightly raised mound fenced by three pieces of wood, with a bag of pies, a bag of candy and a few incense sticks on top; nearby, several other graves also have small offerings of instant noodles, pies and candy.

Hai has lost eight relatives in the landslide – his parents, two younger siblings, a brother-in-law and uncles. He remembers that as he climbed his friend’s motorbike to return to school after visiting home a week earlier, his parents had told him to focus on studying instead of hanging out too much with friends.

Standing next to Hai, waiting for news from the rescue forces was Ho Thi Hoa, a 20-year-old woman who lost seven of her relatives. She buried her father with a pan prepared with a betel leaf and a piece of areca nut for him to chew and keep warm in the underworld. The M'Nong people in the region, regardless of age and gender, have the habit of chewing betel all year long.

They make a living by planting areca and cinnamon, and the forests in the area are full of areca palms.

Before the landslide, Hoa's house had an areca palm in the front. She would return home from work in Tam Ky Town once a week; and every time her son heard the sound of her motorbike, he would run to the areca palm to welcome her. Her son and her parents are buried, along with the areca palm and the house.

In Tra Van, Phuoc Loc and Phuoc Thanh communes, the landslides triggered by heavy rain and flooding have destroyed many schools and isolated many residential areas.

Ha Thanh Quoc, director of Quang Nam's education department, said the exact number of students missing is yet to be determined. At least three elementary school students in Phuoc Loc commune and four in Tra Van, Tra Leng communes have lost their lives, he said.

Locals dig up graves to bury Quang Nam landslide victims whose bodies have been found in October, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.

Locals dig up graves to bury Quang Nam landslide victims whose bodies have been found in October, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.

For now, the teachers are trying hard to keep the students from quitting school after this shock. "Everything is destroyed," Quoc said.

VnExpress has been active in improving education and infrastructure in disadvantaged areas through its Hope Foundation. The foundation helps disadvantaged groups in various ways to create a driving force for growth, establishing more and more connections to make change happen.

Michelle learnt last Thursday that in Tra Van, two years ago, the Hope Foundation had built the Khe Chu School with the help of VnExpress readers.

In order to help the children overcome the shock and trauma of losing friends, relatives and neighbors, the Hope foundation is preparing to return to Quang Nam for relieve work in Tra Van, Tra Leng and other areas heavily affected by the disasters.

VnExpress's Hope Foundation has initiated a campaign to bring relief aids to communities hit by floods and landslides in central Vietnam. Hope Foundation is inviting all readers and well wishers to contribute to this effort. For more information regarding donation methods, kindly refer to this link.

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