Downpours turn life upside down in Hanoi

By Dang Khoa, Linh Do   July 5, 2022 | 05:20 pm PT
The biggest worry these days for Le Vu Khanh Ly is whether it will rain heavily and flood the streets, causing her motorbike to break down en route.

Heavy rain causes flooding on Hanoi streets, July 5, 2022. Video by VnExpress/Huy Manh

The 29-year-old works in Hanoi’s flood-prone Cau Giay District.

"After it flooded twice, I’m scared and have to check my weather app every day to make sure to return home early if it forecasts rain," she says, describing her experience of getting caught in the recent rainstorms as a "nightmare."

The ride between home and office used to take 15 minutes, but these days it takes over one hour.

In late May her bike broke down in the middle of a flooded street. She had to wait for the rainwater to ebb before calling a relative to come and help her push the bike home.

The following morning she took a break from work to take her bike to a nearby repair shop and found three or four other customers waiting in line with the same problem.

During the second flooding episode on June 13, luckily her bike did not break down. But she had to spend a lot of time driving in the chaotic traffic, which had come to a standstill on many streets.

"Now, whenever it starts to rain, I return home immediately. It is much better to get soaked in the rain than wait for it to end and face flooded streets."

Heavy rain causes flooding on Hanois My Dinh 1 street, July 5, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Tung Dinh

Heavy rain causes flooding on Hanoi's My Dinh 1 street, July 5, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Tung Dinh

Though Hanoians may put on a bold face, humorously nicknaming their city a "coastal" one after rains, each of several recent downpours caused an upheaval, turning daily life upside down with traffic jams, flooded streets, stalled vehicles, and fallen trees.

According to the National Center for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting, compared to previous years, this summer has been marked by significantly heavier, longer and more frequent rains in the northern region, causing widespread flooding not only in Hanoi but also provinces such as Vinh Phuc, Thai Nguyen and Bac Giang.

There have been lower than normal temperatures across the country, which the center attributed to the La Nina phenomenon that brings heavy rain and cold air.

This summer is thus expected to be less hot, with fewer hot days and lower temperatures than in the last two years.

In the coming days the north will continue to get widespread and heavy rains, especially at night and in the morning, particularly in mountainous and midland areas, though the rains are forecast to be less intense than in May.

On July 5, heavy rain from 5 p.m. caused flooding on many streets in Hanoi, knocked down trees and turned traffic into chaos.

In Hai Boi Commune in Dong Anh District, the level of rainwater was recorded at nearly 250 mm. Among the inner districts, Bac Tu Liem recorded the highest level of 240 mm, Cau Giay nearly 140 mm, and Nam Tu Liem and Ha Dong over 100 mm.

At about 7 pm, many streets such as Duy Tan in Cau Giay District, Hoang Hoa Tham in Ba Dinh District, Nguyen Trai in Thanh Xuan District, and Beltway No. 3 were badly jammed.

Indeed, in two hours from 2 p.m. on May 29 the weather station on Hanoi’s Lang Street in Dong Da District recorded rainfall of 140 mm, which broke the previous record of 132 mm set in 1986.

Cau Giay recorded 180 mm while other districts registered an average of 90-110 mm.

The thunderstorms on May 29, June 13 and other days submerged over 30 streets in Hanoi, with some areas under up to 80 cm of water.

Trees toppled and traffic came to a complete halt in some places.

According to the Hanoi Sewage and Drainage Limited Company, the drainage system cannot handle over 180 mm of rainfall in two hours as happened recently and needs much improvement.

According to the city Department of Construction, the flooding is also aggravated by ongoing construction projects that affect drainage.

Kind passers-by, callous car drivers

Brazilian Artur Dietrich, 25, who lives with friends on Doi Can Street in Ba Dinh District, was shocked by a sight he saw during a recent downpour: A young woman had wrapped a baby in a raincoat and was holding it above her head as she waded through a flooded street in heavy rain.

"As she could not see what was under the water, she could have easily slipped and dropped the child," he says.

Artur Dietrich poses for a photo with his broke down motorbike in a flooded street in Hanoi on June 13, 2022. Photo courtesy of Dietrich

Artur Dietrich poses for a photo with his broke down motorbike in a flooded street in Hanoi on June 13, 2022. Photo courtesy of Dietrich

He was himself pushing his motorbike in deep water for a kilometer and was extremely worried about his laptop, phone and other electronic devices.

He says he offered to help but the woman refused because she was desperate to reach shelter as soon as possible.

Dietrich, whose street was flooded three times in the last four weeks, observes camaraderie and even a sense of humor among people who have had to push their vehicles or keep the water out of their shops and houses.

"Shopkeepers standing outside their half-submerged shops cheered people up, laughing and helping each other," he says, finding this positive attitude impressive and fascinating.

Ly too deeply appreciates people’s co-operative spirit in such times of need.

She says many ignore the cold rain and dirty sewage to run out and help people whose motorbike engines stall, while others place boxes and broken branches over potholes to alert drivers.

Ly also sees the traffic police work diligently, shining flashlights to help drivers maneuver tricky roads.

However, Dietrich is annoyed with the callous behavior of many pickup and car drivers.

He says many show a complete lack of respect for others and speed through flooded streets in the comfort of their vehicle, creating waves and knocking people off their vehicles.

A motorcycle of a father driving his son is knocked over by water waves on a street in Hanois Thanh Xuan District on May 29, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh

A motorcycle of a father driving his son is knocked over by water waves on a street in Hanoi's Nguyen Huy Tuong Street on May 29, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh

During a flood two weeks ago, he saw a 4x4 pickup driver unnecessarily power through a street on which an old man was wheeling his bicycle in the opposite direction. The resultant wave crashed into the man’s chest and caused him to lose balance and nearly drop the bicycle and things he was carrying.

Once, Dietrich’s own motorbike toppled over because of cars driving on a flooded street, and it cost him over VND1 million (US$43) to fix.

For people such as delivery workers, who cannot work from home or ask to go home early to avoid storms like office employees, recent events have made earning a living hard.

Shipper Nguyen Hoang Thien recalls a delivery order he had on Monday when it started to rain hard. Though he tried to drive as quickly as possible, he got bogged down in a flooded area on Duong Dinh Nghe Street.

"I had to call my customer to postpone the delivery."

Some people were forced to miss out on important events by the recent storms.

Nguyen Thi Ngoc Lan of Hai Ba Trung District is upset that her son could not attend a few final extra classes he had to prepare for the high school entrance exam two weeks ago. "Because of the flooded streets, I could not take him to the extra classes."

For Truong Vu Gia Minh, 37, who lives on Tran Duy Hung Street in Cau Giay District, the rainstorms brought a serious problem: Rain and sewage flooded his house, carrying in dead cockroaches and other insects.

He had to move some of his furniture upstairs to protect them from damage.

"I was not afraid of getting soaked or ill," he says.

"I was only afraid my whole house would become dirty and stinky and the furniture would be spoiled."

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