Typhoon Mirinae, the eleventh storm to hit Vietnam this year, was not as strong as the ninth storm, typhoon Ketsana, but it has cost at least 98 lives so far in central Vietnam.
Pham Thi Hong (R), an elderly resident in Tuy Hoa City, shows the roof where her 43-year-old son-in-law died while sheltering from the floods on Nov 3, 2009.
What really happened there? Tuoi Tre reporters went to the hardest-hit province of Phu Yen to find answers.
Phu Yen-based Ba Ha River Hydropower Plant Joint Stock Company general director, Vo Van Tri, admitted his plant discharged over 50 million cubic meters of water in one hour, during the peak of the floods. The move played a large part in completely flooding the provincial capital of Tuy Hoa by Monday evening.
He said the plant released the water into the lower section of the Ba Ha River, the largest river in Phu Yen Province.
Tri said his hand was forced, “otherwise the dams would break, and the whole city would have been swept away.”
His excuse rang similar to the boss of A Vuong Hydropower Plant in central Quang Nam Province, which was also accused of worsening floods caused by typhoon Ketsana late September by discharging flood waters.
On Monday evening, Tuy Hoa City residents were taken completely by surprise by flood waters slamming into their houses in the middle of the night. The lucky ones found time to escape to their roofs, the unfortunates never made it in time.
Nguyen Hoi, an elderly resident, said: “I’ve never seen such so much water in my whole life, just like I’m living in the country.”
As of Wednesday, Vietnam has reported 98 deaths from typhoon Marinae, including 69 in Phu Yen Province. A further 20 people are still missing.
On September 29, the A Vuong hydropower plant in Quang Nam Province released 150 million cubic meters of flood waters without warning, making it impossible for the province to take timely measures against flooding.
The plant did not inform provincial authorities of the release six hours in advance as required, so authorities did not evacuate residents from low lying areas downstream of the Vu Gia River.
As a result, 30,000 households in the lower section of the river were flooded, and 35 people were killed in the entire province.
The action has sparked public outrage, and prompted an investigation by the Central Storm Prevention and Control Committee.
After typhoon Ketsana, the United Nations hosted a meeting in Bangkok. At that meeting World Red Cross representative, Madeleen Helmer, warned that Asian countries are paying the prices for rampant logging and exploitation of natural resources in the rivers.
She said the number of annual natural disasters in Asia has increased to 350 from 200 in 2000.
WWF’s Global Fresh Water Program director, Jamie Pittock, said the biggest mistake that Asian countries had made was to build so many dams.
In March 2007, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) also warned that Asian rivers are facing serious threats due to increased agricultural activity.
A WWF report showed the rampant construction of irrigation dams and hydropower plants was among the biggest risk factors to humans along the region’s river banks.