Government leaders criticised for response to flood

Photo by Trinh Anh Tuan

Some families, like this one in Ha Tinh, had to seek refuge on the roof of their houses and wait for help to arrive. Photo by Trinh Anh Tuan.

Coastal provinces worst affected by the marine life disaster earlier this year have been hit by severe flooding, made worse by sudden discharges from local hydro-power reservoirs.

At least twenty five people have been killed so far in the  floods, which were triggered by torrential rain. Eighteen people lost their lives in Quang Binh province, including two reportedly killed by lightening. The other fatalities were in Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Hue.

Almost 120,000 houses in the four provinces were damaged, of which 1,200 houses in Quang Binh alone were partially submerged in water up to two metres deep.

Photo courtesy of Tuoi Tre.

Photo courtesy of Tuoi Tre.

Tens of thousands were displaced while thousands of others were cut off.

The national hydro-meteorological forecasting centre said water levels in Quang Binh were at their highest since 2008.

There were angry complaints from the public after state media reported that a local hydro-power plant, Ho Ho, had discharged water on Friday night (October 14) without duly informing the local authorities and the people.

Some commentators called the plant managers murderers for discharging water suddenly and exacerbating an already devastating flood.

Ms. Kim Ngan at the Ao Dai festival. Photo courtesy of VNN

Ms. Kim Ngan at the Ao Dai festival. Photo courtesy of VNN

At the same time, the Prime Minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, was reported to have taken part in a bulk text messaging campaign to offer support people in the flooded areas.

He was criticised on social media for failing to go to the flood ravaged regions and take charge of  rescue operations.

The public response grew more angry when state media carried pictures of the National Assembly Chairwoman, Nguyen Kim Thi Ngan, attending a festival to celebrate the traditional Ao Dai dress.

Facebook users described the two leaders as “stupid” and “apathetic” for failing to show due concern to the suffering of those flooded out of their homes.

Some unregistered civil society organisations in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have set up donation funds for flood victims.  A number of human rights and environmental activists went  to central Vietnam to offer assistance.

Some activists, however, said that their bank accounts were blocked shortly after they published their online appeal. They said the bank was asked by the police “not to assist the anti-state people.”

A well known television presenter and former actor, Phan Anh, was one of the most successful in raising funds for the affected provinces.

He had raised 10 billion VND, about $450,000, within three days of making his appeal on Facebook.

He said he wanted to support at least a thousand households in the two hardest hit provinces with food donations and water purification kits.

He visited some of the flooded areas on Tuesday with a group of volunteers and supporters.