Saturday, December 18, 2010

More extreme weather on the way for Vietnam

Helen Clark in the Global Post: Extreme weather is a part of everyday life in Vietnam. The Mekong Delta floods each year and small children travel to school by boat. Typhoons and tropical storms blow across the South China Sea to the central coast, often on course from the Philippines. Rains flood the cities and thousands of motorbike exhaust pipes choke on the murky water.

But the floods that hit the north-central coast of Vietnam this past October were outside the normal pattern. What initially looked like an unremarkable depression on satellite maps wound up dropping 80 percent of Ha Tinh province's average annual rainfall in just 10 days. Close to 200 people died in these and later floods. More than 250,000 houses were submerged.

Major floods are usually prefaced by a storm. These weren’t. Few had the opportunity to move their belongings to higher ground. Many were trapped on rooftops without food or water for days. Reports by aid groups detailed stories of costly hospital equipment ruined and pregnant women giving birth in attics.

And this likely won’t be a one-off event. According to experts, unpredictable weather patterns seem to be on the rise in Vietnam. The country will need to adapt, they say, or face increased losses of agriculture, infrastructure and overall GDP. “If you look at last year and this year what we saw were a succession of medium-scale storm events that affected the country and they also came towards the latter part of the year, which is unusual,” said Ian Wilderspin, a senior technical adviser of disaster risk management at the U.N. Development Program….

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