The latest typhoon to hit the region missed Vietnam yet the heavy rains it unleashed triggered floods and landslides, leaving at least 41 people dead and dozens injured, government officials said on 29 September.
Vietnam’s Central Committee for Flood and Storm Control said more than 1,300 houses were destroyed and nearly 20,000 hectares of rice paddy damaged when Hagupit moved into southern China’s Guangdong province on 25 September.
“It did not directly hit Vietnam,” said Dong Lien Chau, director of the National Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting Centre. “But these storms can still cause extensive damage.”
In Bac Giang province, officials said Storm No 6, as the Vietnamese label it, triggered the worst flooding in two decades. Warnings were given to evacuate, which helped to minimise the death toll. But not everyone had enough notice.
“The waters came really quick, coming down the mountains and from the rising rivers and streams,” Hoang Thi Luu, a farmer from Bac Giang’s Tuan Dao district, told IRIN. “No one had enough time to save their property; they just ran for their lives.”
One local official in Bac Giang said his 70-year-old neighbour was swept away in the floods. She was found alive, two days later, trapped in a tree.
The powerful effects of the storm were also felt in the mountainous provinces of Son La and Lang Son – areas that are still recovering from Storm Kammuri, which left more than 160 people dead when it struck Vietnam in August 2008.
“In the last storm, hundreds of houses collapsed or were swept away in the flooding,” Leo Van Hoan, an official in Son La’s Muong Bu district, told IRIN. “The new storm damaged houses that had just been built to replace the ones that were destroyed.”
Hoan said villagers in his district - mostly ethnic minority Thais - were warned of the incoming storm but even those living near creek beds and streams failed to heed the calls to evacuate.
“We warned them about the possibility of floods,” says Hoan. “But no one realised how dangerous the situation was.”
Soldiers to distribute aid
Dao Xuan Hoc, the deputy agriculture and rural development minister, told IRIN the government was providing emergency relief and compensation to those most affected. Ten thousand soldiers had been dispatched to deliver emergency supplies and assist with reconstruction, he said.
The Ministry of Health, with help from the UN Development Programme (UNDP), is taking measures to prevent the spread of water-borne illnesses in flooded areas. The Vietnam Red Cross has also sent relief teams with emergency kits to the region.
To date, the government has not made appeals to UN agencies or the international community for assistance.
Meanwhile, Chau said another storm was forming in the South China Sea. Mekkhala, or Storm No 7, is heading towards Vietnam with a wind speed of 75-102 km/hour.
"The storm is expected to make landfall in north-central Vietnam in the next few days, probably on 1 October,” Chau added. “And we predict that another three storms will hit Vietnam before this year’s typhoon season is over.”