Monday, October 5, 2009

In Vietnam, preparation blunts Typhoon Ketsana's impact

Helen Clark in IPS: Three days may have been a small window of opportunity, but it was enough time to save thousands of lives. Approximately 200,000 people were evacuated by emergency services just before typhoon Ketsana made landfall on Vietnam’s central coast on Sep. 29, after blowing across the South China Sea from the Philippines, where it unleashed a month’s worth of rain in just 12 hours.

Ketsana hit Manila and surrounding areas on Saturday, Sep. 26, leaving 246 people dead and more than 107,000 families homeless. Damage was estimated at 5.6 billion pesos (118.6 million U.S. dollars), according to the National Disaster Coordinating Council.

"The fact that the typhoon hit the Philippines gave Vietnam time. (Relocating) 200,000 people in two days saved many, many lives," Ugo Blanco, programme officer of the disaster mitigation arm of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), told IPS via phone. This downgraded problems to "low to middle impact" from the "deadly" typhoon, he said, which has to date killed over 400 people in the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia.

"The Vietnamese government has done a tremendous job preparing for the storm. They’ve been tracking the storm for several days, evacuating people from high-risk areas, closing schools and taking necessary precautions to keep casualties as low as possible," wrote Peter Newsum, the country director of CARE International on a Sep. 30 blog on the aid organisation’s website.

Residents of the Ketsana-hit areas in Vietnam took their own precautions as well, such as sandbagging their roofs, a common practice in areas where typhoons and tropical storms are regular misfortunes. Ketsana is the worst disaster to hit the communist state in years. It has left over 100 people dead and 120 million U.S. dollars worth of damage. Vietnam floods killed some 750 people in 1999 while typhoons Xangsane and Durian both left at least 70 dead in 2006…

Da Nang awash after the storm, shot by haithanh, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License

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