HANOI (AFP) — Floods have killed 55 people in northern and central Vietnam including 18 in the capital Hanoi, which has been hit by the worst flooding in almost 25 years, emergency services said Monday.
Victims have drowned, been struck by falling trees and collapsing buildings or been electrocuted by live power lines, said the National Flood and Storm Prevention Committee.
Rains have lashed central Vietnam for more than a week and left many Hanoi neighbourhoods inundated in muddy waters since Friday, with thousands of residents trapped inside waterlogged homes, many without electricity.
Hanoi families with young children were using canoes and barges made from oil drums, packaging, bathtubs and banana trees to evacuate their television sets, furniture and other valued possessions.
The severe weather has brought widespread traffic chaos, damaged tens of thousands of homes, destroyed rice fields and threatened dyke systems along the Red River and other waterways.
A dyke broke in Ninh Binh province, a scenic limestone karst region south of Hanoi, on Sunday, killing one of 600 troops deployed for disaster relief there and inundating 10,000 homes near the Hoang Long river, officials said.
“We have been hit by historic floods this year, the worst in decades,” provincial People’s Committee official Tran Van Ha told AFP. “Farmers’ lives have been turned upside down… The roads here have turned into rivers.
“The situation has become especially difficult for old people and children, and we fear we will face a serious epidemic when the flood waters recede.”
Among the latest fatalities were eight deaths in Nghe An province, where five children and an old man drowned in floods and two men were electrocuted when they tried to repair the electric system in their flooded home.
In Hanoi, prices for meat and other food have multiplied since the disaster closed many farms, roads and markets. Petrol prices and repair costs for water-damaged motorcycles have also shot up, raising anger over price-gouging.
Television reports have shown people catching fish with nets and rods in city streets under more than one metre (three feet) of dirty water.
Hanoi has been battered by the heaviest rains since 1984, and some outlying areas of the city including southwestern Ha Dong have been cut off for days.Schools across the capital remained closed Monday, while hospitals reported being crowded by parents with children suffering fevers and chills.
“More children have been admitted since the weekend here, especially children under two years old with diarrhoea and respiratory diseases,” Nguyen Thi Lien of Hanoi’s Central Paediatric Hospital told AFP.
Vietnam’s north-south transport links, including Highway 1 and the national railway line, were severed in many areas.
No immediate relief was in sight amid sporadic rainfalls in the north, said Bui Minh Tang, director of the Meteorological Forecasting Centre.
“The rains could continue for two more days in the north, and some areas of Hanoi could be still by flooded until the end of this week,” he told AFP.
“We are already at the end of the normal rainy season, and it is very unusual that the rains have been so heavy and lasted so long this year.”
Vietnam, a country of 86 million, gets lashed by typhoons and tropical storms every year, mostly along the central coast.
Last year, six major storms from the South China Sea battered Vietnam, killing more than 435 people in floods and landslides, displacing thousands and leaving vast central areas inundated for months, the government said.