Controversy over Vietnamese Red Cross’ escape from earthquake-hit Nepal

A delegation of the Vietnamese Red Cross was sent to Nepal for a one-week course on how to prevent earthquakes. Ironically, the disastrous earthquake hit Nepal on April 26, right on their day of return. The ten members were trapped in Nepal until April 28 when they flied back to Vietnam and faced a terrible public outcry for being “the runaway aid workers.”

“They rushed back to Vietnam only three days after the quake,” one among thousands of angry facebookers commented.

Previously, an article published on the Phap luat TP.HCM [HCMC Legal Daily] on Wednesday ran a saritical title, “Going [to Nepal] to learn how to fight quakes, facing quake and we went home.” The article concluded, “Every one wants to be home in a disaster. But, as people whose mission is to help other people in misfortune, you can’t be the first to go home.”

Ms. Nguyen Luong Hong, one member of the Vietnamese Red Cross delegation to Nepal, explained in an article on VietNamNet, “We did not run away…. We Vietnamese delegation were senior guests, we were not equipped with facilities and skills to survive an earthquake and we were bad at roads. Language issue would also have prevented us from participating in aid process even if we had been fortunate enough to join the work.”

“So, the best thing we could do is to go back to Vietnam and call for donation to help the Nepalese earthquake victims,” she wrote.

However, the Red Cross delegation added more fuel to the fire when a photo taken by their members was leaked to social media. In the photo, one member of the delegate was shown pointing her fingers to a pile of rubble behind her, and giving a big smile. The photo went viral on social media on Saturday and the Internet community was furious. “Then she took the first flight back to Vietnam without helping anyone,” an angry commentator wrote in an online forum.

The photo was leaked on Friday evening and went viral on social media network on Saturday.

The photo was leaked on Friday evening and went viral on social media network on Saturday.

In response, Nguyen Xuan Duy, coordinator of the Norwegian Red Cross program in Vietnam, admitted that the “smiling woman” in the photo was a member in the delegation, Ms. Nguyen Luong Hong, but insisted they did not mean to smile at other people’s pains. “We just want to record all about this earthquake,” he said.

Ms. Nguyen Luong Hong is the author of the article published by the VietNamNet in justification of the delegation’s return to Vietnam at quake.

The Vietnamese Red Cross delegation’s trip to  Nepal was part of a capacity building and natural disaster prevention program sponsored by the Norwegian Red Cross Association.