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As Downpours Continue in Central Vietnam, Landslides Emerge as Deadliest Threat

Communities across the central coast of Vietnam are going through one of the most challenging, widespread natural disasters in recent history.

According to SGGP, official data shows that the period of extreme downpours, flooding, and cataclysmic landslides from October 6 to 18 has left 130 people dead or missing. In Hue and Quang Tri Province, 64 people have died and five others remain missing at the time of writing due to sudden landslides.

The victims include 13 soldiers who were part of a 21-person rescue team tasked with rescuing workers stuck at the Rao Trang 3 Hydropower Plant in Thua Thien-Hue Province. The officers were sleeping at a ranger station after a day of relief efforts when a landslide buried them.

Serious rainfall amounts reaching as much as 700 millimeters will continue to batter central Vietnam provinces until October 21, according to projections by the Central Steering Committee for Natural Disaster Prevention and Control.

As a result, water levels in local river systems are reaching alarming thresholds, the National Center for Hydrometeorology Forecasting warned on Sunday. The Thach Han, Quang Tri’s major river, recorded a rise of 1.39 meters, topping the previous record of the historic flood of 1999.

Disaster relief initiatives are taking place across the region, conducted by volunteer groups, NGOs, local authorities and the Vietnamese military. However, efforts are constantly hampered by flooding and landslides, which block road access. In some occasions, relief workers themselves have fallen victim to grave dangers as well.

In the early hours of Sunday, October 18, another landslide swept through Huong Hoa District in Quang Tri Province while members of the Economy-National Defense Delegation No. 337 under the 4th Military Region were sleeping. They were in the area to help citizens evacuate from inundated villages. Five soldiers managed to escape when the flow of land struck the houses, while 22 others were buried. 

As of 2:30pm today, October 19, the military has managed to retrieve the remains of 22 soldiers from under the sediment. According to a local resident, the station was based about 150–200 meters from a hill, where the mudslide originated. Meanwhile, early this morning, 20 people had to be saved from a bus that had been swept away by floodwaters in Quang Binh Province.

As early as October 8, residents of central Vietnam began evacuating their homes, and now at least 150,000 people have been displaced. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) hase pledged US$100,000 in relief funds to help the Vietnam Red Cross Society (VNRC) in its humanitarian efforts. Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc has that announced 4,000 tons of rice from the national rice reserve will be allocated to support flood victims in the region.

[Photo by Hoàng Sơn via Thanh Nien]

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