US fund to develop flood forecasting in central Vietnam

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Universities form Vietnam and the US have begun a US-funded project to help authorities in central provinces improve the quality and speed of flood forecasting in the country's most disaster-prone region.

Hawaii University's Pacific Disaster Center and Hanoi-based Irrigation University will conduct the project with US$500,000 in funds from the US Trade and Development Agency, said Nguyen Huu Phuc, director of the Center for Preventing and Reducing Natural Disasters.

The project will be implemented through October next year at eight central coastal provinces, focusing on Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue.

It will develop IT facilities to help forecast the disasters sooner and evaluate their damage more thoroughly.

Softwares such as the Decision Support System and Geographic Information System will be applied and local officials will be given training to improve their access to information. They will also be provided with maps and other materials to help improve predictions.

Experts at Hanoi conference in late October last year said outdated technology and infrastructure, and the lack of experienced staff, have prevented Vietnam from forecasting natural disasters accurately.

In related news, the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Organization (ECHO) has given 332 tons of rice to 3,500 families in Quang Binh Province, which was hit hard by Ketsana typhoon last year.

The rice was given because local families are now in-between crops and have little rice left.

ECHO also provided more than 1,400 water filter bottles, 78 tons of fertilizers and nearly VND1 billion (US$52,700) in cash.

Ketsana was the most devastating storm of 2009 to Vietnam. It hit the central region with torrential rain and wind speeds of up to 149 kmh, killing at least 163 people, injuring more than 600 others, and causing significant material damage. 

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