Vietnam’s location on the edge of the Pacific means that the country has always been susceptible to tropical storms. Indeed, October to January in central Vietnam is known as the storm season, such is the frequency of the tropical depressions that gather in the nearby ocean.
This year’s disasters started with the arrival of Typhoon Doksuri in mid-September. The most powerful storm to hit the country in a decade, widespread evacuations in the Quang Binh and Ha Tinh areas of North Central Vietnam ensured the death toll was kept to a minimum — there were only 11 fatalities.
Then the next storm hit: Typhoon Khanun. The storm made landfall in Southern China and was downgraded to a category 2 hurricane by the time it moved into northern Vietnam.
Then at the beginning of November, Typhoon Damrey battered coastal Nha Trang with winds of up to 135km per hour. Killing well over 60 people and causing widespread flooding, 2,000 homes collapsed and more than 80,000 were damaged.
The worry is not so much that Vietnam will be hit by storms — this is an accepted part of life. Rather, it is the growing frequency of these storms and concern for the people who are most at risk.
In 2006 a storm hit Ba Ria-Vung Tau and Binh Thuan Provinces in southern Vietnam. 47 people were killed — most were from small fishing villages and rural areas up the coast. There was also widespread structural damage to the region. However, it was the only major storm to hit Vietnam that year.
More than 10 years on and three typhoons have made landfall in a matter of months, and as in the past the people most affected are the poor.
In the impoverished district of Van Ninh, 40km north of Nha Trang, Typhoon Damrey killed eight people alone. People’s livelihoods — homes, fishing boats and crops — were swept away.
According to UNICEF in a statement in early November, four million people including one million people were affected by Damrey alone, of whom over 30,000 were displaced.
If storms are going to be more frequent then another question needs to be answered: How do you protect those who are most at risk?
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