Residents evacuated from a flooded area on Phú Quốc Island last Friday. Photo e.vnexpress.net
HCM CITY — Authorities in Phú Quốc said the island must find a permanent solution to its flooding problem after it experienced the worst flooding in its history this month.
The island, a tourist hotspot in the Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta province of Kiên Giang, has suffered torrential downpours brought by Typhoon Wipha, which submerged thousands of houses.
As of Sunday morning, the district continued to experience rain but the rainfall was not as heavy as in previous days. The water level has fallen and many families have returned to their homes.
Kiên Giang Province officials attributed the worst flooding in the island’s history to climate change and rapid urbanisation.
Mai Văn Huỳnh, chairman of the Phú Quốc Island District People’s Committee, said climate change was one of the reasons for the flooding.
“The total rainfall from August 2 to August 9 was more than 1,000mm while the average rainfall in many years in Phu Quoc was 3,000mm. On August 9 alone, the rainfall reached 335mm, higher than the total rainfall of 1997 which was 327mm,” he said.
The record rainfall occurred in a short time, coinciding with rising sea levels, affecting the drainage system that takes water from rivers and streams to the sea, he said.
The system, built in 2003, has become overloaded due to an increase in population and tourists in recent years.
According to Phu Quoc District’s Steering Committee for Disaster Prevention and Rescue, heavy rain over the past few days has left around 8,424 houses flooded, 24 others destroyed or without roofs and a large area of crop devastated. The total damage was estimated at over VNĐ107 billion (US$4.6 million).
Some 63 km of roads were under 0.7-2 metres of water. Fortunately, no casualties were reported in the district.
The district authority has mobilised local rescue teams and soldiers to evacuate nearly 2,000 people. Thousands of free meals have been supplied for households who have been affected by flooding.
Đinh Khoa Toàn, deputy secretary of the Phú Quốc Island District Party Committee, said: “I have lived my whole life on Phú Quốc Island and this is the first time I have witnessed such a downpour and flood.”
Nguyễn Thị Tịnh, former chairwoman of the Phú Quốc Fish Sauce Association, who has also lived on the island for a long time, said reducing vegetation for urbanisation and selling land are the main causes of the historic flood.
Ponds and lakes on the island have been filled for construction and rivers and streams have been encroached upon, affecting water drainage, she said.
Huỳnh, the chairman of the Phú Quốc Island District People’s Committee, said after the flood receded, the island would review the drainage system and dredge rivers, streams and canals to prevent garbage from obstructing the flow of water.
Authorities would step up inspection of construction to dismantle illegal encroachments, he said.
They would also take measures to ensure the safety of people living in flooded areas, he promised.
Authorities would focus on disinfection to prevent diseases.
Dương Đông town’s drainage system would be upgraded and canal and river encroachment would be cleared, Huỳnh said.
On Saturday, the national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines said that 14 flights were added on the Hà Nội-Phú Quốc route and HCM City-Phú Quốc route, raising the number of flights to 32 in total, to transport passengers affected by the bad weather.
Earlier on Friday many airlines cancelled flights, leaving 1,560 passengers stranded, after an unrelenting downpour flooded the runway of the Phú Quốc International airport. — VNS