Established in the year 1010, Thang Long or Hanoi as it’s now known, is marking its 1000th anniversary as Vietnam’s capital. Over 30,000 people have taken part in parades through the streets. But as the city dwellers celebrate, many Vietnamese further south have been struggling to cope with torrential rains and heavy flooding.
Vietnam has subtropical weather to the north. Further south a tropical climate brings a rainy season which extends from May right through till November. But this year, rains have been much heavier than normal, particularly since the start of October. One province has received half its expected annual rainfall over the last few days alone.
The continual downpour over the last week has now resulted in the worst flooding in 20 years. 66 people are already known to have died and half a million have been affected in the five central provinces of Nghe An, Thua Thien Hue, Quang Tri Ha Tinh and Quang Binh. Across this region, around 150,000 houses have been inundated with water and over 2,000 have been destroyed. Crops and stored food have also been damaged.
The head of the Red Cross in Vietnam is particularly concerned about the Quang Binh province, where the waters have yet to recede. Those made homeless are living in tents provided by the Red Cross and emergency supplies are being distributed. Helicopters from the Ministry of Defence have been deployed to drop food parcels, such as instant noodles. Generally, the response from the government has been speedy, with the provision of finance and quantities of rice to the area. Many fishermen have also been rescued by the navy. But with more rain forecast, the flooding is not expected to abate for many days. And once the waters recede, the Red Cross believes the region will continue to experience food shortages for at least four months, because many crops have been destroyed across Quang Binh, a major rice growing area. Public buildings have also been damaged and the region’s water sources will have been polluted. Over the coming months, supplies of clean drinking water will therefore be needed, as well as extra mosquito nets and medicine.
The total cost of the floods is already estimated at more than 51 million dollars. Some Vietnamese are questioning the cost of the celebrations in Hanoi. To help those affected by the floods, 29 of the planned fireworks displays across the capital have been cancelled and the funds are being channelled towards helping the flood victims.