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VIETNAM: Experts assess flood preparedness

HANOI, 18 October 2010 (IRIN) - As central Vietnam continued to be battered by flooding that has killed at least 66 and affected half a million people since 2 October, IRIN asked three experts to assess the country’s level of preparedness for flooding that typically occurs from August to November.

The storms quickly inundated five out of 58 provinces nationally – Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Nghe An, Quang Tri, and Thua Thien Hue – causing widespread damage to crops, housing and livestock. Record rains on 14-16 October flooded an additional 50,000 homes. The country is in the path of a super typhoon due to hit the Philippines shortly before continuing on through Vietnam.

Van Dang Tao, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies disaster management programme manager:

“People living with floods have experience [in dealing with floods]. They’ve built mezzanines in their houses and put things up there, such as firewood, food and drinking water. Fifty percent of the evacuation [this time] was organized by local people. The local People’s Committee also has a plan of action and a list of task forces to cope with natural hazards annually.

“It is very difficult to implement or undertake preparedness with this flood as it happened at night and so quickly. Local people did not have enough time to save their items. One new lesson learnt by local people is that they need to put things up on higher ground when heavy rain occurs and not wait until water levels have risen.

“The Vietnam Red Cross helps people to plan, conducts contingency planning, trains teachers and children at primary schools on doing things before, during and after floods, storms and other hazards.

“In terms of capacity building time is needed to train people... Regular training and workshops are needed [and] need to be updated to include climate change information.”

Ian Wilderspin, UN Development Programme senior technical adviser, disaster risk management:

“Generally I think Vietnam’s level of preparedness is pretty good especially when it comes to storm tracking. They don’t always get it right, but it’s difficult for anyone. The challenge here was that a normal depression came over the country - and what was unexpected was the sheer volume of rain that fell very quickly.

“The locations of important infrastructure need to be improved… pregnant women had to climb up a ladder into a small hole [in attics] to give birth, with the water rising.

“It [preparedness] needs to be taken at different levels in a more coherent and coordinated fashion than going around responding and pulling people off rooftops.

“It was an unusual event in a confined locality. We are likely to see more of these unusual, intense weather related events. This is how it’s going to be. [Overall] five provinces were affected and there are question[s] over human resource capacity and equipment… how modern the equipment is. There is a need for more [weather monitoring] stations along the coast.

“It’s about getting accurate messages [out] in a timely way; that’s the critical thing. There is a need for some improvement. It’s what they call end-to-end early warning systems. Satellite info is transmitted in a timely and understandable way to villages and households… It’s the last mile.

“There is a need to recognize that a lot has been done in terms of messages that get out to fishermen and boats. It comes down to pouring more resources into the whole area.

“They did get out a lot of people from the areas affected in a pretty timely way. This is what always comes up after a disaster - that preparedness can always be better. We’ve been saying the same thing for decades really.”

Central Committee for Flood and Storm Control (Government employee requested anonymity):

“We get the [storm] information from the meteorological agency and it goes into our system for the flood and storm committee, and it also goes to the media, such as newspapers, TV and radio, like Voice of Vietnam, so we can warn the community.

“We just send a warning to the provincial levels [of the storm committee]. They then send it out to the other levels.

“Distribution of measuring stations in mountainous areas is not good enough. We need more stations.”

hc/pt/cb

Theme (s): Early Warning, Natural Disasters,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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