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Villagers struggle after dam breaks

Update: December, 14/2014 - 22:32

Evacuation: When the irrigation dam in Dam Ha District broke, river water flooded residential areas in Quang Loiand Quang Tan communes and Dam Ha Town. Local authorities brought residents to a safe area. — VNA/VNS PhotoVan Duc

by Ha Nguyen

Ha Thi Vy's home in Quang Lam Village in the upper reaches of Dam Ha Dam is among four others that collapsed after the dam broke due to heavy rains late October in the northern province of Quang Ninh's Dam Ha District.

The flood damaged many construction projects, 300ha of rice and cereal and 25ha of shrimp and seafood, as well as 100m dike with several holes 5-7m deep.

"Apart from homes, the flood swept over all our properties and land. We are living difficult lives now, despite the VND15 billion (US$707,547) fund given by the district. The amount they provided is only enough for us to buy rice and salt, as well as several other necessities," she said.

Vy said her six-member family has to live in a temporary thatched hut, which may even endanger their safety and health this winter. "How will we survive the harsh winter in this hut?" she asked.

"I have to send two of my youngest children to live with my poor parents, who are weak and old. My kids will eventually cause too much disruption and trouble to them, which is why we need to have our own home soon," Vy added.

Vy shared that the flood damaged all parcels of land in the village, and there are stones and rocks all around. "We could face hunger this winter," she revealed.

Phuong Van Toan, a resident of Ly A Coong Street of Dam Ha Town, shared that his son's house, along with their furniture, was swept away within 30 minutes of the flood.

"We were warned about flash floods, which could break dikes and dams. However, this flood arrived suddenly. Many residents could only save themselves, but not their properties," Toan said.

He said residents need help from the province and district to stabilise their lives and to prepare for Tet, which is fast approaching.

Toan said local people received disjointed information before the breakdown. The information about water being let out from the dam was not explained carefully when the flood came.

Nguyen Van Thuy, deputy head of the Dam Ha Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, disclosed that timely letting out of water from the dam could have reduced the losses incurred by the people.

The local people still worry about the flood, which could arrive any time. They are anxious about the dam's capacity to hold water, especially since it has been damaged by the heavy rain.

Hardship: Ethnic minority people harvest rice left after the flooding caused by the broken dam. They now still face difficulties as most property was destroyed. — VNA/VNS Photo Nguyen Hoang

However, Vuong Thi Nhan, a teacher of Dam Ha Kindergarten, said that "the school has allowed its students to stay at home after receiving a flood warning from the district authorities. The announcement ensured that no person is left in danger though there is a possibility of losing most of our infrastructure due to the broken dam."

Nguyen Van Son, deputy chairman of Dam Ha District, admitted that Quang Lam is the most affected area because of the broken dam.

After the flood, more than 1,700 families have lost their homes and properties. However, the district can only provide VND700 million ($33,000) for 200 households, identified as the ones that will be facing the most difficulty in building their temporary homes and again starting to cultivate their land.

"We are calling for help from individuals and organisations to continue funding the needs of the victims of the heavy flood," Son said.

With the valuable assistance from the Quang Ninh Province and relevant agencies and organisations, the district managed to re-open its hospital, as well as repair the water system, revealed Son.

Nguyen Van Doc, chairman of the Quang Ninh's People's Committee, has directed relevant agencies, sectors and the Dam Ha District to draft plans to rebuild dam No. 2 and other dams. The plans will be submitted to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development for approval before the next flood season comes.

He also urged these agencies and Dam Ha District officials to work out concrete solutions to safeguard all flood victims and their properties before Tet comes.

He sought explanation from the police on the reason behind the broken dam. He also called for the suspension of the director, deputy director and officials in charge of the Centre for Irrigation, Transport and Environment, from their posts.

Located in the Dam Ha River, the dam serves as a reservoir for water which is used to irrigate nearly 3,500ha of agricultural land.

It also provides water to a community of roughly 29,000 people.

The VND500 billion ($23.5 million) dam, which was built in 2006 and finished in late 2011, helps prevent floods in the lowlands. — VNS

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