River sans bridge puts lives of children, adults at risk

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Children from a village in Thanh Hoa Province cross a fierce river everyday on a raft because many promises to build a bridge have never been kept.


The Bon Village with a population of more than 600 people is isolated from other places in the province by the Muong Min River and every time heavy rains raise the water levels, the students would quit class for a week.


But most of the time, the villagers accept the risk, and take turns to row the raft.


Vi Van Son, 60, was rowing the raft on Thursday, when the river was in spate and the waters were rough.


"This water is dangerous indeed but the raft still has to run as many children and adults need to cross the river," Son told local news website VietNamNet.


The waters being too rough for independent navigating, a cable tied to two trees on either sides of the river is held on to as the raft crosses there with the aid of another cable attached to a pulley.


The villagers made the raft themselves and bought the cables. They fix the rudimenatary system themselves when it breaks down and no one pays anything to cross the river.


Teacher Nguyen Xuan Hau said when it rained heavily, he couldn't go to school to teach the children.


"There have been several deaths in this river. Falling into the river is a common occurence," Hau said.


Vi Thi Hang, an eighth-grader, said, "I am scared every time I go on the raft, especially during heavy rains, but I couldn't go to school otherwise."


Vi Van Nguyen, a nurse in the village, said there were times the water was too strong for him to carry sick people to medical stations across the river, so he had to tie bottles to his body and swim across the river to get the medicine.


"It almost got me killed last year," Nguyen said.


"Our situation is miserable," said Vi Van Hoa, another villager. "For many years, we have had to be reckless to cross the river when needed. The poorest ones are the teachers and children, having to cross the river two to three times every day."


Hoa said many visitors, district and province leaders have promised to help then with a boat but this has not been materialised yet.


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