More than 100 dead as Vietnam reels from ‘worst floods in decades’

A woman wades though floodwaters along a street in central Vietnam's city of Hue on October 17, 2020. (Photo by Manan VATSYAYANA / AFP) (Photo by MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP via Getty Images)

More than 100 people are dead and thousands of homes have been submerged in some of Vietnam's most severe floods in decades, with authorities warning that more bad weather is to come.

The death toll from weeks of flooding and landslides in central Vietnam has risen to 111, with 22 people still missing, Reuters reported Wednesday.

"These devastating floods are some of the worst we have seen in decades," Nguyen Thi Xuan Thu, the president of Vietnam's Red Cross Society, said in a statement Tuesday.

More than 7,200 hectares of food crops have been submerged and damaged, and more than 691,000 cattle and poultry have been killed or swept away in flood water, according to the state-run Vietnam News Agency (VNA). Sixteen national highways and 161,880 meters of local roads in four provinces have also been damaged.

A man rides his bicycle past flood waters during heavy rain showers in Hai Lang district

The country is now bracing for another onslaught from tropical storm Saudel which is heading toward Vietnam after lashing the Philippines, where it caused flooding and forced thousands of residents to evacuate.

October is rainy season in Vietnam, but for weeks the country has been hit by particularly poor weather which has impacted agriculture, irrigation, and transport.

At the start of the month, storms and a cold snap prompted rain and floods in central cities and provinces in Vietnam, according to VNA. More than 250,000 households in six provinces have been "inundated," since mid-October, and many areas are 2 or 3 meters underwater, VNA reported.

Earlier in the week, rescuers found 14 bodies of 22 soldiers that were missing after a landslide engulfed a military camp, according to VNA.

The region as a whole has suffered particularly heavy rainfall amid the onset of a La Nina weather system, which is characterized by unusually cold temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.

A woman looks out from her flooded house in Quang Dien district in central Vietnam

Larger humanitarian crisis

Vietnam's flooding has left hundreds of thousands in urgent need of emergency shelter, safe drinking water, food, and income support, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

Red Cross disaster teams are working alongside local authorities to provide relief assistance.

"Everywhere we look, homes, roads and infrastructure have been submerged," Thu said. "We're doing our best to get immediate relief to people by boat, by air and on land, including food, safe water, tarpaulins and other essentials."

The Vietnam Fatherland Front Central Committee is giving 20 billion Vietnamese dong ($860,000) to support flood-hit families in five central provinces, VNA reported. The IFRC has released around $325,000 to support the Vietnam Red Cross relief activities.

According to Thu, the flooding is dealing a "staggering blow to the livelihoods of millions of people already reeling from hardships caused by the Covid-19 pandemic."

Vietnam largely escaped the kind of onslaught seen in other countries, with authorities reporting 1,141 coronavirus cases and 35 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. However, the tourism-dependent economy has taken a hit -- the country, which sealed its borders in March due to the pandemic, is normally visited by millions of international tourists a year.

A double disaster was unfolding as the floods "compound the difficulties caused by Covid-19," Christopher Rassi, IRFC's Director of the Office of the Secretary General, said in a statement Tuesday.

"These floods are the last straw and will push millions of people further towards the brink of poverty," he said.

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