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Hoang Quan, Plan Vietnam's Programme Communications Officer, blogs about the destruction caused by Typhoon Wutip in Vietnam's central region - and the impact it has had on 5-year old Tuyen, a Plan sponsored child, and her family.
On arriving in Vietnam's Quang Binh province, I was shocked by the trail of destruction Typhoon Wutip had left behind. Houses were destroyed and seriously damaged, rooftops had blown off. Thousands of trees were uprooted, traffic was a mess and the power was out, leaving me with the sense that this badly affected area had become an “isolated island”.
Reaching Trong Hoa commune in Minh Hoa District had involved travel over several hours by car, motorbike and boat. Heavy rain, uprooted trees and rising water levels in local rivers blocked most main roads. The threat of floods, erosion and landslides was ever-present. The local authorities say Trong Hoa sustained some of the heaviest damage from the storm. This is an area where Plan Vietnam has focused on working with sponsored children for a number of years.
Typhoon Wutip destroyed 200 houses in this commune, blowing away the roofs of 54 houses and a large number of public facilities. It also ruined about 100 hectares of rice and subsidiary crops, as well as 2,500 banana trees. Three cows, seven pigs and 157 chickens (vital for livelihoods) died and electric poles, electric wires and Internet cables were uprooted.
“I just want to go home. When can I go home?” asks 5-year-old Ho Thi Tuyen, a little girl who is one of many in this village sponsored by Plan. Not knowing how to respond in that moment, I simply tried to comfort her.
Heavy rain, strong winds and erosion caused by Typhoon Wutip destroyed Tuyen’s house and eight other houses in the area. The family's essential assets, including an electric cooker, fan, and pots and pans have been damaged beyond repair.
Tuyen's father, Ho Cang, holds his daughter as he says, “My whole family is living on some noodles and rice supported by the government. All rice and cassava were completely damaged by the heavy rains. If only we had enough food, necessities and a little bit of money to buy materials to rebuild our house.”
The losses and difficulties that Tuyen and her family face are just one of so many similar stories here. Trong Hoa commune, and many surrounding areas of Quang Binh province, are devastated by many tropical storms year after year.
Children are always among those most affected by natural disasters. Tuyen has lost her home, her family's food and necessities and may have her education interrupted. When schools reopen Tuyen may not be able to join her friends at school without the learning materials and clothes taken away by the storm. Her family were working hard before the storm. Typhoon Wutip has taken away what little progress they had made in their lives.
I spoke to Mr Ho Phin, the Secretary of the Party Committee, People’s Committee Chairman of Trong Hoa commune, who said, “The top priority is to treat injured people, fix water and power supplies, ensure food security, and prevent diseases in the area. We would very much appreciate it if the government and some international organisations like Plan could provide support and financial aid to reduce the property damage and loss of life.”
Typhoon Wutip has caused serious damage across central Vietnam. Some 156,000 houses and 460 schools have been damaged or destroyed and more than 100 boats sank in the storm. In Quang Binh province, more than 90% of houses were seriously damaged and infrastructure was badly affected.
Despite these challenges there is a powerful saying in Vietnam that “good leaves protect the worn-out leaves”. Tuyen's neighbours are doing their best to help her family and others from outside the commune are working tirelessly to transport essential food supplies and materials for storm-affected locals. The people of central Vietnam are focused on supporting each other and rebuilding – it will take more than a Typhoon to stop them from moving forward.