Flooding kills 31 in central Vietnam

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Binh Dinh Province under water Friday. Photo by Vo Van Minh

A tropical low pressure system coupled with hydropower dams discharging water Friday have caused flooding that has killed 31 people and left two missing and three injured in central Vietnam.

Rainfall of between 20 and 60 centimeters since Thursday night, hours after the tropical depression was spotted 350 kilometers off the south central coast, have isolated many areas in the central provinces. 

Binh Dinh and Quang Ngai provinces have so far borne the brunt of the flooding with each repocording 13 deaths. Quang Nam reported two and Phu Yen, Gia Lai, and Kon Tum each recorded one.

Two people in Quang Nam and Gia Lai were reportedly swept away by the flood and have remained unaccounted for.

Binh Dinh's vice mayor Tran Thi Thu Ha on Friday night made a phone call to the agriculture minister Cao Duc Phat pleading for rescue teams to help evacuate around 10,000 residents as thousands of houses and roads were flooded.

The province's Tay Son District was hit hard with total power outage, three bridges pulled down, many parts of National Highway19 damaged and more than 3,500 houses submerged by Friday night.

District authorities have sent police officers and soldiers with some necessaries including instant noodles and water to some areas, but some others could not be reached even by speedboats. Many people were spotted sitting on their rooftop making phone calls asking for help.


 An eroded road in Kon Tum Province. Photo by Gia Huong

Blackouts, landslides, erosions and floods were common across the region, where river tides are forecast to rise even further on Sunday, a full moon day.

Quang Ngai Province has evacuated 5,874 people out of flooded areas, and Quang Nam has done so with 4,000 people.

Nguyen Chi Quang, a Binh Dinh government official, said: "The floods were unusually high as rains were heavy and [a local] dam was discharging 2,611 cubic meters of water a second."

An Khe Kanak dam in Gia Lai and Song Tranh 2 in Quang Nam were also discharging water amidst the flooding, and Ba Ha dam in Phu Yen was releasing 1,400 cubic meters of water a second.

During storm Ketsana that hit in September 2009, the release of 150 million cubic meters of water from A Vuong hydropower dam in Quang Nam worsened flooding that killed at least 163 people and caused over US$786 million worth of property damage. The incident stayed in the media spotlight for more than a year.

A new government resolution last month warned that hydropower investors would be charged over VND25-30 million ($1,185-1,423) for discharging water without giving proper warning, but officials in the central region, which has a profusion of dams, say the fine is too small to change anything.

They said if the investors care enough, they should have the dams run more water to generate more power by July or August every year, to increase their capacity for the typhoon season in September and October.

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