Vietnam Red Cross general secretary Doan Van Thai has made a public apology after clothes donated to flood victims in the central region were found being used as rags at garages in Nghe An Province.
The association's inspectorates are currently investigating the "accident," Thai said.
In an interview with news website VnExpress, Bui Thi Mai, chairwoman of Nghe An Red Cross, said they received relief items from the association on October 27.
Their staff then categorized them, bringing usable ones to the Red Cross's storage facility to send to victims, while those that were deemed too old to be used were sent to a warehouse leased from the Nghe An Auto-mechanical Joint Stock Company, Mai said.
When the unusable stuff was being taken to the warehouse, some people allowed three garages to get 37 sacks of old clothes to use as rags, because they found the clothes too old and smelly, Ho Huu Dan, vice director of the company, told VnExpress.
"We definitely didn't sell the old clothes to garages," Mai said.
However, Thai told the news website that under the regulations, all relief items are to be checked by Red Cross associations before they are sent to the intended beneficiaries.
The associations are supposed to set up a committee to destroy unusable items with approval from the local environmental police.
"This is an unprecedented accident at Vietnam Red Cross," Thai said, adding that chapters in other localities have been ordered to strictly follow regulations to prevent similar events from happening again.
"We have put in a lot of effort to build the association, but because of this unfortunate accident, people's trust in our association has been damaged. Now we only hope people look at it with generosity and fairness," the general secretary said.
He refused to blame the donation of unusable clothes for the accident, saying everybody wants to donate good things, but some people are themselves in financial trouble.
"The fault lies with us for not doing things properly," he said.
Over the past month the central region has been hit by three instances of flooding, all triggered by heavy rains. In the first one, at least 165 people were listed dead or missing and hundreds of thousands of houses were damaged.
The third, starting last weekend, has so far left 18 people dead and six missing, according to an online report posted Friday by the Central Committee for Storms and Floods Control.