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Thousands flee north in an attempt to get home after months of lockdown in south provinces

Update: October, 09/2021 - 09:37

 

A volunteer maintaining a motorbike at Đà Nẵng's Hải Vân Pass. Thousands of migrant workers have ridden their motorbikes from southern provinces to their homeland in central and northern provinces. Photo courtesy of Phương Chi 

CENTRAL REGION — Thousands of migrants are making the long, perilous journey north back to their home towns and villages, after months of unemployment and lockdown in the southern provinces. Volunteers, students and philanthropists in the central provinces are doing their bit to help. 

Food, water, safety helmets, petrol, motorbike repair services and first aid have been prepared for the columns of people passing through Đà Nẵng over the past several days. Almost all are migrant workers from the north heading home after months of lockdown in southern provinces. 

 

A mother holds her son during a break at the Hải Vân Pass bordering Đà Nẵng and Thừa Thiên Huế province. Many families risk their lives riding motorbikes for thousands of kilometres with babies, old people and luggage. Photo courtesy of Trần Phong 

 

At least 1,000 people passed through the Hải Vân Tunnel early on October 7, after the longest road tunnel in South-East Asia opened at midnight, following the request of the central city’s committee. It is estimated that 10,000 people passed through the central provinces between October 2-6. 

 

Members of the Pickup Truck Đà Nẵng Club providing petrol to migrants on their journey north. Photo courtesy of Trần Phong

 

Trần Phong, a volunteer from Đà Nẵng, said local people had prepared instant noodles, soup, helmets for kids and petrol for motorbikes. Students from Đông Á University were providing mechanical repairs, as almost all motorbikes were in a state of disrepair after the long road from HCM City, Đồng Nai and Bình Dương.

Phong said that most of those fleeing back to their hometowns had been unemployed for months, trapped due to social distancing regulations in the south of the country.  

He said some families even carried newborn babies. For most, many more days riding lay ahead before they reached their home towns and villages in the northern provinces.

 

Volunteers from Đà Nẵng bring food and soup to migrant motorbike riders on the Hải Vân Pass. At least 10,000 people had returned from southern provinces to the central and northern provinces on October 2-6. Photo courtesy of Thế Thịnh 

Nguyễn Thế Thịnh, who joined the voluntary mission, said members of Pickup Truck Đà Nẵng Club (PDC), a group of pickup truck lovers in Đà Nẵng City, distributed gasoline from tanks, as well as food, water and other necessaries to those fleeing through Đà Nẵng.

 

Migrants face many risks on the 1,000km road north from HCM City, Bình Dương and Đồng Nai. Photo courtesy of Phương Chi 

Tropical low pressure has impacted weather conditions in the central region. Raincoats and hot soups were prepared at home by volunteers to help those in need, Thịnh said.

On October 4, over 3,000 people stopped on the Hải Vân Pass, exceeding the 1,000 food portions and 1,200 water bottles prepared by volunteers.

Doãn Phương Nam, a student from Đông Á University in Đà Nẵng, said the university’s 12-member SOS Group have been on duty on the Hải Vân Pass since October 2, providing maintenance services to those that need it. Most families are riding old, worn-out motorcycles, many using portable headlamps in place of broken headlights.

Over the past few days they have helped over 1,000 people.

Volunteers and local people in Quảng Ngãi city took an exhausted 35-week pregnant woman to the provincial obstetrics and paediatrics hospital on Wednesday night. The pregnant woman is safe in hospital and waiting to give birth, a local volunteer said.

The provincial people’s committee has opened a quarantine centre in Quảng Phú to give those passing through a safe place to sleep for the night. The province has also provided VNĐ100 million in funds to help support migrant workers during their travel through Quảng Ngãi.

Traffic police in Thừa Thiên Huế met a caravan of migrants at the north entrance of the Hải Vân Pass and escorted them through the province.

Quảng Bình province plans to transport 2,800 of its residents living in southern provinces home by train. Quảng Nam, Đà Nẵng, Phú Yên, Bình Định, Thừa Thiên Huế and Quảng Ngãi have also done the same, using train, planes and coaches to return their residents.

Although the road is long and dangerous, the support of volunteers and donors along the way makes the plight of those trying to get home just a little bit less dangerous. — VNS

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