|The way is shut: A road in Ba To District of Quang Ngai Province is blocked by rocks and trees after a recent flood. Throughout the 10km road, 40 areas are blocked with more than 60,000 cubic metres of rocks and soil that slid from the mountains. As many as 1,000 family households in the area suffered from the blockage. — VNA/VNS Photo Dinh Thi Huong
Every rainy season teams of volunteers respond to emergencies, helping with evacuations or rescuing marooned residents. Recent, historic flooding in the north proved a challenge, but loss of life was kept to a minimum. Trung Hieu reports.
The people in Nghia Hanh District in the central province of Quang Ngai have set up teams of volunteers who reach out to the flood victims using boats, and have proved their effectiveness.
Every season when there are floods, these teams respond promptly, helping and rescuing people from dozens of households, and proving to be benefactors of the villagers, a role they have been playing for nearly 15 years now.
Team leaders, Phan Thuan, 56, and Ho So, 55, who live in Hanh Tin Tay Village came in for praise by President Truong Tan Sang for their efforts in rescuing others.
On the evening of November 15 last year, their region suffered torrential rain. As the muddy waters of the river flowed aggressively, threatening to swallow the low-lying areas, fisherman Thuan hastily borrowed a boat from his brother-in-law, and asked three youths of the volunteers' team to be ready to carry out a rescue mission.
|Prepared for anything: Key members of rescue units in Nghia Hanh and Nghia My districts from the central province of Quang Ngai practice giving first aid to flood victims. — Photo tintuc.vn
Some 200m from their place, beyond a bamboo bush, the Pham Hung family was calling for help.
Thuan and others quickly rowed their boat to help the marooned people.
"Ours was a small boat, so we had to carefully avoid the fast water stream. We were afraid lest we get stuck by the scrubs under water, as the boat might be easily blocked or capsize," Thuan recalled.
The flood water had risen as high as Hung's roof, so his family of four were stuck there.
The rescuers quickly took off some tiles to clear the way to rescue the family.
It was cold, and raining, and all the rescuers felt hungry, but they rushed to save another family.
Thuan is a frail person, has a small frame, but as he rowed around in his boat, riding the flood waters and commanding the three youths, he seemed tireless. Four people took turns to row the boat.
|Teamwork: Locals in Cho Don District in the northern province of Bac Can move a bike out of a flooded area. — VNA/VNS Photo Duc Hieu
Thuan cannot even remember how many residents did they save, how many people they brought ashore. When they arrived at the house of a woman named Trinh Loi in a far hamlet, it was dark, and flood water had risen till the roof.
"Luckily, Thuan and his team arrived in time, otherwise I would not know how my family would have survived," Loi recalled.
Having spent a life fishing since young age, Thuan understands every narrow stretch of the local Ve River.
In the historic floods that struck in 1999 and devastated their village, his house was also swept away. Thuan later joined the voluntary rescuers' team of his village.
Now, he has served the team for nearly 15 years. His wife, Bui Thi Tuyet, said every time he goes for a rescue mission, the family feels so worried.
"The boat is small compared to the flood currents, so things can be unpredictable. Only when he comes back, we muster up the courage to turn off the lights and go to bed," she said.
|Costly catastrophe: A scene in Ban Sen Commune in the northern province of Quang Ninh after a recent flood. Locals said in some areas the flooding reached 15m in depth. It has also caused property damage amounting to more than VND200 billion (US$9.5 million). — VNA/VNS Photo Minh Quyet
Vice chairman of Hanh Tin Tay Commune, Nguyen Van Nhu, said the commune is located in a low-lying area, so it is affected seriously by flooding.
"During the most recent flooding, almost 100 per cent of the local houses were flooded. However, the loss of life remains under control, thanks to the operations of the voluntary boat teams," he said.
After the 1999 flood, a boat team was established and it kept growing.
To date, the commune has 10 teams in seven villages with 15 boats and hundreds of people have participated in their efforts. Their resources include 11 boats build or procured with the money that people voluntarily contributed.
"People have a sense of mutual love and extend support to reduce the loss of life during floods. For example, Thuan alone has saved more than 42 households during floods. The family of Ho So saved a total of 25 households comprising 240 people who found themselves marooned following heavy flooding," Nhu said.
While they were busy saving lives of other people, the families of these "heroes" also suffered property losses.
While people in Quang Ngai managed to use boats to rescue others, the authorities in Quang Ninh Province mobilised naval vehicles to rescue victims in August.
Continuous heavy rains caused dangerous flooding in Uong Bi City of the province.
On the morning of August 2, the city's Military Command mobilised 500 officers, soldiers and militiamen to rescue flood victims.
Brigade 147 of the Navy sent two amphibious vehicles, and dozens of officers and soldiers to the deep flooded areas in the city to relocate residents to places of refuge in time.
|The essentials: Rescue goods are transfered to flood victims in Quang Trach District in the central province of Quang Binh after a flood in October 2013. — VNA/VNS Photo Duc Tho
The city also mobilised 160 policemen to support and rescue people and assure traffic safety.
Central Viet Nam is often vulnerable to flooding, so local residents have promoted their initiatives to survive.
Hundreds of households in Quang Nam now have peace of mind when the flooding or stormy season begins, since they have spent tens of millions of dong on building storm refuges, including shelters for their livestock and poultry.
Nguyen Tu was one of the first persons in Ha My Dong Village to build storm shelters.
Tu said his house was degraded but they could not rebuild it because the authorities had planned his area for a development project.
"Previously, every stormy season, our family had to be evacuated. In 2012, I decided to build a regufe for my family."
The structure is 1m deep, 7sq.m wide, with four cylindrical steel and concrete poles.
In the last few years, the shelter was "tested" and survived hurricanes.
Thanks to the structure, the couple and fellow villagers could avoid storms safely.
Other villagers follow his model, so the village now has more than 20 such shelters.
Duy Phuoc Commune (in Duy Xuyen District) is located beside the Thu Bon River and is in the flood prone area of Quang Nam Province.
The commune suffers two or three massive floods every year, caused by hydropower stations discharging water from upstream areas.
Several years ago, a flood would invariably wreak severe damages upon people: crops were devastated, livestock and poultry were washed away.
Today, people can minimise the damage, thanks to the house built higher than the flood level.
Huynh Thi Phuong's family raises livestock and they suffered from the terrible aftermath of the historic flood in 2009. That year, flood waters rose quickly, and their herd of 50 pigs was swept away in the night.
After that, she decided to spend VND100 million (US$5,000) to build a two-storey house for rearing pigs. It would also help her avoid a flooding scenario.
That barn is at a place even higher than their house.
Her nearly 100 pigs are kept at a height, and stay clean and cool in summer and safe in the flood season.
"Ever since we built that barn, we enjoy a peace of mind each flood season. Flood waters flow through all the fields and homes but our pigs remain safe," she said.
A neighbour, Nguyen Nghi, owner of more than 20 cattle heads, explained: "We have to build such high barns, because when floods come, humans know where to take shelter, but livestock don't and would be swept away."
The commune chairman, Nguyen Than, said in the last two years, nearly 100 households built such high barns.
"This has limited the damage in the flood season and is a very useful initiative undertaken by residents even as storms and floods become more and more unpredictable." — VNS