When nature calls: the dangers of storm Noru

September 30, 2022 - 07:23
Every year, the thin strip of land in the central of Việt Nam receives, on average, 10 tropical storms.
Illustration by Trịnh Lập

by Nguyễn Mỹ Hà

In the hectic schedule of moving the elderly to safe public spaces, protecting houses and domesticated animals, and closing down 10 airports scattered along the coastal provinces to escape the sweeping route of superstorm Noru, a young couple was pictured hanging out on the white sandy beach in Đà Nẵng.

"What's going on with these youths? Not born on the same date, but wanting to die on the same day or what?" said a viewer on seeing the picture, which later went viral. "If they have finished helping their families, they could have helped others."

A weather expert was particularly alarmist. "People will eventually forget Sangsane, Damrey and Ketsana, but they won't forget Noru," Huy Nguyễn, a weather researcher at Kyoto University, warned on his Facebook account at 7.30am on September 27, about 10 hours ahead of the time Noru was supposed to hit the central coast of Đà Nẵng City and Quảng Nam Province.

"It's going to be a historical storm with record strength to hit Việt Nam. And I pray that it won't leave a historical amount of damage.

Dear fellow countrymen and women in the Central region, from Khánh Hòa, Phú Yên, Bình Định, Quảng Nam, Đà Nẵng, Huế, Quảng Trị, Quảng Bình and the northern part of the Central Highlands, we still have 10 hours to escape from this storm. DO RUN AWAY! EVACUATE NOW!

With 10 hours, even if you have to walk, you can find a safe haven. Find a safe place to hide from this devastating storm!"

His post got more than 14,000 views and more than 2,000 shares. On national television, the government task force headed by Deputy Prime Minister Lê Văn Thành held urgent telemeetings to direct preparation activities in all the provinces mentioned above.

Before the storm's arrival, a strong whirlwind the afternoon before swept away more than 100 roof-tops in Cửa Việt Town of Quảng Trị Province.

More than 860,000 people had been evacuated in 16 cities and provinces to avoid Noru's path. More than 60 provincial districts faced flooding threats, and the army had been on alert to perform rescue services.

By midday September 28, the storm weakened to a tropical low and later dissolved.

But its influence did not stop with the wind going up into the mountains of the Trường Sơn range. Torrential rains always came ahead of further calamities, like flash floods and landslides.

Every year, the thin strip of land in the central of Việt Nam receives, on average, 10 tropical storms. When coping with natural calamities, one cannot say just fight it or, as audacious young people like, "tame nature".

There's no such thing as "taming nature". With all the scientific and technological advancement, all you can do is try to become aligned with nature and avoid Mother Nature's anger and occasional rages.

"It's 1.30pm and it's raining so hard here in Hội An," read a comment on Huy Nguyễn's post. "The wind hit our glass window with strong rain that sounds like bullets firing."

"The roof shakes as if loads of people are running on top of our house," read another comment. "If it keeps going like this, the house won't be able to stand."

"Any of you felt the storm's eye passing through your roof?" read another. "When the wind gushes back and forth, it cannot sweep away the roof, but it goes up and down in sync with each gust of wind. I was standing under that roof, trying to hold on to the arm of the big stick, trying to pin the roof from being flown away!"

The tension was even extended to 60 people who would not leave their boats as it was everything they had. They were ordered to come ashore, but they returned to be on their boats.

The return to their precious boats led to further pleas from a rescue team: "Please, pity the rescue people; they also have families and let them have some rest, do not put even more people at risk!"

The storm faded away, and public servicemen in Đà Nẵng were seen out on the street to clean up the trash, fallen trees and broken roofs that were blown away. Đà Nẵng was famous for its quick and effective clean-up of the storm aftermath in 2017 within only one weekend to greet the APEC group meeting.

The jewellery store owner in Quảng Trị market, who got all her goods up with the whirlwind, found some gold rings, necklaces and bracelets back, thanks to kind people, who dug up the debris to find.

Mother Nature has tested our resilience; now, it's our job to get back to normal. Until the next call! VNS