Vietnamese villages submerged as floods kill 67
HANOI (Reuters) - The homes of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese villagers were still underwater on Monday after days of some of the worst flooding in decades that killed up to 67 people.
The northern province of Thanh Hoa and its southern neighbor Nghe An were worst hit by floods and landslides after Typhoon Lekima blew in last Wednesday night.
Officials there and in Ninh Binh province measured the highest river levels since the mid-1980s. Water levels were receding on Monday, but many buildings were still mostly submerged in the provinces 150 km (93 miles) south of Hanoi.
"People are telling us they have not seen flooding like this in a generation," said Joe Lowry of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies after visiting Thanh Hoa and Nghe An.
"Preparations were made for the storm but they didn't take the flood warnings seriously enough," Lowry said.
The underdeveloped Southeast Asian country of 85 million faces up to 10 storms a year that cause millions of dollars in damage and kill hundreds of people.
Lowry said two million people in Thanh Hoa and Nghe An were affected, according to the Vietnam Red Cross and government officials. More than six million people live in the provinces, just two out of nine suffering damage from the storm.
Up to 67 people have been killed and 14 were missing, government reports said.
In Thanh Hoa, wells supplying fresh water were submerged. Maintaining sanitary conditions and the threat of water-borne diseases were among the difficulties facing people.
"Our focus now is to deal with environmental pollution," Nguyen Cong Thanh, vice minister of natural resources and environment, told state-run Vietnam TV.
Mudslides closed roads and thousands of electricity lines were felled, isolating villages in several mountainous areas.
The IFRC said it released 200,000 Swiss francs ($170,000) to re-supply Vietnam Red Cross stocks and prepared an emergency appeal to buy 500 tons of rice, kitchen sets, water jars, mosquito nets and blankets for more than 12,000 families.
Over the weekend, stricken villagers received medicine, bread and instant noodles dropped by helicopters or delivered in boats.
Since last Wednesday, the storm and floods have washed away dykes and irrigation systems.
A dyke broke on the Buoi river in Thanh Hoa, causing severe flooding. The river rose to 14.25 meters (47 feet), 0.26 meter (10 inches) above the level of floods in 1985, officials said.
In Nghe An, the Ca river measured 7.9 meters (26 feet), at the most dangerous level.
Preliminary reports said nearly 58,000 houses were damaged or destroyed. Estimated damages were at least 1.6 trillion dong ($99 million).
($1=1.178 Swiss Franc)