QUANG TRI (VNS)— For years, people living in the isolated Khe Muong Hamlet in the central province of Quang Tri's Hai Lang District have yearned for a bridge.
The hamlet is separated from other districts by the dangerous Thac Ma River, which has caused up to four deaths in the last three years, said hamlet chief Tran Quang Hai.
Last year, a child drowned while trying to get to school.
All 70 households have a small area of land for farming production. But they also have to fetch firewood in the forest and do extra jobs to survive, he said – meaning that they are often forced to cross the river.
"We can get across the river in the dry season but not in the rainy season, when the water level rises to nearly 15 metres. As a result, most students have to skip school for nearly one month," said Hai.
|Without a bridge, a man must put himself and the kid at risk travelling with the car gut over the river to school .—Photo nld.com.vn
Ho Xuan Chien, a fourth-grader at Hai Son Primary School, was once swept away by the river's swift current – but he fortunately escaped death thanks to a local resident.
"My parents work in the forest for the whole day so I have to cross the river by myself. I feel so scared now and won't go to school if nobody helps me cross the river," Chien told Nguoi Lao Dong (Labourer) newspaper.
For the same reason, Chien's older sister left school when she was only in fifth grade.
The lack of a bridge has forced local residents to create their own means of transport.
Punctured car tires collected from auto repair shops are fixed and inflated, then used as buoys to carry students.
"Since the tubes are old, they sometimes turn over and get students' clothes and books wet. They have to miss their classes that day," said 53-year-old villager Doan Thanh Binh.
Khe Muong Hamlet now has 30 school-age children, but in the 2012-2013 academic year, only one student attended high school. The rest refused to brave the river.
The lack of a bridge also affects agricultural production. Local farmers find it hard to transport products across the river for sale; residents, as a result, are forced to sell products at a price two or three times lower than market value.
According to Nguyen Khanh Vinh, chairman of the Hai Son communal people's committee, the commune has proposed a motion to build a bridge over the Thac Ma River many times but it has not been approved as yet due to the lack of budget. — VNS