Rescue workers attempt to recover a bus that gushing floodwaters swept into the La River, in Ha Tinh Province. As of press time, 20 passengers had been listed as dead or missing and 15 bodies have been recovered in and around the wreckage.
Rescuers on Wednesday (October 20) finally located a bus that had been swept away by floodwaters on Monday in Ha Tinh Province.
Thirty-eight people were onboard. Twenty have been listed as dead or missing. At around 11:55 a.m. on Thursday the bus was towed to a nearby shore. The body of a three year old child floated out of the ruined vehicle. Divers extracted nine other corpses from the tomblike vessel; five others were found washed upon the shore or floating in nearby waters. Police are now attempting to identify the corpses. Several families have already identified their dead and are preparing the bodies for funeral rites.
Divers located the vehicle on the bottom of the La River about one kilometer from where it plunged into the river. Early this month, the central region suffered the worst floods in 30 years. 54 people were killed, two were declared missing and 44 injured -not including those on the bus.
One of the survivors, 57-year-old Nguyen Thanh Thang, told the Tuoi Tre newspaper that the bus broke down near the Rong Bridge at around 4 a.m. in Ha Tinh Province's Nghi Xuan District. The bus was en route from Dak Nong to Nam Dinh Province.
Thang said the passengers thought that the rushing water was simply passing under the bus before realizing they were in danger.
As the river swelled, flood waters swept down and threw the bus into the river.
CASUALTIES IN FLOOD
* 54 people were killed. This doesn't include the 66 that died in the flood from September 29-October 5.
* Another 20 people were missing and 44 other injured.
* 319 communes in Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Quang Binh provinces are still flooded. 35 communes in Nghe An are considered isolated.
* 266,659 homes were flooded
(Source: Central Committee for Flood and Storm Control, statistics as reported by 9 pm on October 20)
Eighteen people smashed windows and swam to safety. Those who couldn't swim remained inside or clung to the bus, not knowing what to do. Thang, the survivor, guessed that the vehicle was completely submerged after about 20 minutes.
Passenger Tran Dang Luc, 47, recalled the horrifying sound of his son crying for help.
"He cried out "˜dad, I can't swim'," he told Vietnam News Agency. Luc tried to push his son and his niece out of the sinking bus but the terrified kids kept darting back into the vehicle, he said.
"I hope they can recover their bodies," he said.
Forty-six-year-old Tran Thi Mung, another passenger, was rescued while struggling to swim ashore. Her 19-year-old son Tuyen remains missing.
"We clung to the bus for 15 to 20 minutes. My son told me, "˜Mom, I'm very cold,'" Mung told the Associated Press (AP). "We were together, and he was holding my hand."
Tuyen can't swim and Mung has never been in deep water. As they clung to the bus, she tried to prepare Tuyen for their ordeal, first telling him to remove his clothes and then to lie back and float. But he was too scared and there was no time. He decided to help others instead.
"He kept calling into the bus, urging the others to take the children outside and give them to the strong young men," Mung was quoted by AP as saying. "He managed to take out one child that was saved."
Minutes later, the bus began to sink and Mung lost her hold on Tuyen. She tried to keep her own head above water, she watched her son drown.
"I saw him slowly disappear in the water and he yelled, "˜Mom, where are you?'" she told AP, gasping as she wiped her swollen eyes." The current was so strong, I could not reach him. I still remember that image vividly of him slowly sinking with his hand waving, trying to ask for help."
Just then, the bus rolled onto its side and vanished into the murky water, with several screaming passengers still huddled inside.
Mung thrashed around in the swift waters for 4 kilometers (2.5 miles). She was saved, finally, by a fisherman aged 19 like Tuyen.
RED CROSS APPEALS FOR $1 MLN
The International Red Cross appealed for more than US$1 million in aid for victims of heavy flooding in Vietnam, AFP reported on Monday (October 18).
"With large parts of central Vietnam still battling the after-effects of flooding, which has killed dozens of people and affected half a million residents, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is launching an emergency appeal for 1,034,754 Swiss francs ($1.08 million, 772,216 euros) to assist survivors," it said in a statement.
Federation spokesman Paul Conneally said the numbers included those who have been displaced or suffered damages to their homes, land or agricultural property.
The Red Cross said fresh flooding since last week has added to damage caused by torrential rains earlier in the month, when rivers burst their banks and dams overflowed.
As of Thursday (October 20) Thanh Nien's readers had donated a total of VND5.86 billion ($300,667) to help flood victims in the central region. The paper has been organizing trips to the area to deliver the relief funds.