Words by Phoebe Adlard

5 million people have been affected by ‘record high’ floods in central Vietnam and Cambodia, whilst concurrently battling theCovid-19 pandemic.

Over a 100 reported deaths and dozens of people are still missing, as October sees a prolonged period of heavy rainfall, causing severe flooding and landslides.

Thousands of homes and crops have been lost due to floodwaters. The floods are some of the worst seen in decades and according to the Vietnamese Red Cross: “the flood waters had exceeded the previous historical high recorded in 1999”

Both Vietnam and Cambodia are suffering from widespread flood damage. Access to roads have been disabled by these damages, cutting off many severely affected communities. 

According to The AHA Centre, hundreds of health stations and educational institutions have been compromised, prohibiting thousands of school children from continuing their education.

In Vietnam, central provinces Quang Binh, Quang Tri, Thua Thien Hue and Quang Nam were hit hardest with an estimated over 800,000 people and 160,000 houses affected, and over 112,000 hectares of land damaged or destroyed. Currently, 111 deaths and 22 missing people have been reported by the Vietnam Disaster Management Authority (VNDMA)

In Cambodia, 71 districts within 19 provinces have been submerged, affecting more than 532,000 people of which at least 27 have lost their lives. An estimated 60,000 houses have been damaged with over 26,000 people evacuated.

Monsoons aren’t uncommon in Southeast Asia. The Inter Tropical Convergence Zone – a region that circles around the globe near the equator, where the trade winds of the Northern and Southern Hemisphere meet, seasonally shifts and affects rainfall. This causes the tropics wet and dry seasons.

However, the region was faced with an unfavourable combination of different weather systems which caused the current situation. On 11 October 2020, tropical storm LINFA brought in 150 to 300mm of rain. This was followed by tropical Storm NANKA that reportedly added at least 150mm of rain to the already flooded regions.

In affected cities, evacuations are being led by the military and police who use boats and canoes to access and evacuate.

Previously, water levels have receded slowly; it is therefore likely that many families face the prospect of being unable to return to their homes before mid November

The significant damage to goods, such as harvested products and stored water, have impacted people’s access to basic needs. Additionally, families are reported to be in desperate need of household items and shelter, with livelihoods being greatly affected by the disaster.

In response, thousands of local volunteers are participating in the evacuation.  

The National Disaster Response Team (NDRTs) and IFRC Programme Coordinator from CCST Bangkok, PNSs (American Red Cross, Swiss Red Cross, German Red Cross) and ICRSC are all involved in the organising of a response plan.

Cash distributions, household items, kits and water purification sachets have been distributed by the government, the VNRC and other non-profit organisations who additionally enable the mobilisation of volunteers that are also conducting disease prevention and hygiene promotion. 

Whilst the Vietnamese government has granted $21,52 million to the worst hit provinces, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has provided roughly $339,000 from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to support the Cambodian Red Cross in their efforts.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID), has also corresponded through a press release stating that they were: “providing a total of $ 200 000 in immediate humanitarian aid”. In addition, local media outlets report more than $ 6 million in charitable donations from private individuals. 

This all unfolds in a ‘double disaster’ situation for the regions, as this natural disaster has hit during the current worldwide Covid-19 pandemic. 

The Vietnamese government had swiftly responded to the virus by implementing strict measures early on, withhe country reporting less than 1,500 confirmed cases and eased social distancing measures.

However, according to the Vietnamese Red Cross, the pandemic has caused an economic ‘fallout’ for the region, significantly impacting income and food security, particularly of those from vulnerable households.

Faced with such conditions the region’s capacity to cope with the floods was inevitably weakened.

As the situation unfolds, the struggle continues as tropical storm SAUDEL approaches and is expected to bring more heavy rain in the upcoming days.

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