Floods and landslides kill 37 in Vietnam
Scores missing, tens of thousands evacuated as forecasters warn of more bad weather to come
HANOI: At least 37 people have died and another 40 are missing as floods and landslides ravage north and central Vietnam, destroying homes and leaving rescuers scrambling to find survivors, disaster officials said yesterday.
Tens of thousands were evacuated after heavy rains lashed swathes of the country this week, as forecasters warned of more bad weather to come.
Northern Hoa Binh is the hardest hit with 11 dead and 21 missing, prompting a state of emergency to be declared.
“We are mobilising all forces to search for the missing,” a disaster official told AFP by phone, declining to be named.
Rescue efforts were hampered as water and mud submerged roads in several areas, including in Hoa Binh where eight died in an overnight landslide.
“People should be evacuated from dangerous areas, the safety of people and their belongings must be ensured,” deputy prime minister Trinh Dinh Dung said on state-run Vietnam television.
A terrified resident described severe flooding in another part of the province. “The flash flood was terrible. Water poured down from the hill, like a surge three metres high. Traffic has been blocked because of the floods,” Phan Ba Dien told statecontrolled VNExpress news site.
A journalist from Vietnam News Agency reporting on the storm was swept away along with four other people as an overf lowing river demolished a bridge in northern Yen Bai province. One survived and authorities were still looking for the other four yesterday.
Images on state media showed people wading through kneedeep waters and tracts of forests that had been wiped out by landslides. Road access was completely cut off in some areas.
“Water was just rushing downstream... it’s been a long time since I witnessed that kind of flooding in mountainous areas. I didn’t feel safe driving at night, it was scary,” Hanoi resident Nguyen Vu Ngoc, who was travelling in the north told
People should be evacuated from dangerous areas, the safety of people and their belongings must be ensured. Trinh Dinh Dung, Vietnam’s deputy prime minister
The disaster has killed 37 people in six provinces, with more than 18,800 houses damaged or destroyed along with tens of thousands of hectares of farmland, Vietnam Disaster Management Authority said.
Officials said they were focused on rescuing dozens of missing people yesterday as rain subsided in most areas. Residents desperately ferried furniture and other belongings over f looded roads in Son La province, where houses were demolished and electricity poles torn down. At least 400 millimetres of rain have swamped northern and central Vietnam since Sunday, the disaster agency said.
Vietnam is routinely hit with severe weather, with nearly 170 people killed or missing in disasters so far this year.
A massive typhoon slammed into the central coast last month, killing 11 people and devastating entire towns. The country is routinely slammed by tropical storms in the May to October period. Last year, nearly 250 were killed or reported missing in weather-related disasters.
Forecasters said a tropical depression east of the Philippines is expected to enter the South China Sea and strengthen in the next few days as it heads toward Vietnam.
MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s ferocious war on drugs will shift to a higher gear to target ‘big fish’, officials said yesterday, moving away from street level operations to go after big networks and suppliers.
Duterte issued a directive on Tuesday ordering the police to halt activities in the anti- drug campaign and leave all operations to the drug enforcement agency, amid unprecedented scrutiny of police conduct.
The national police chief disbanded all 18 regional antidrugs units yesterday and said the resources would be channelled into fighting other crimes.
“We now target higher echelons of the syndicates, as well as their protectors in government,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella told reporters.
Abella said the street level distribution networks of the ‘drug lords’ had been degraded due to successful police operations in the 15-month old campaign.
The message will sound familiar, with similar announcements made a year ago, when the authorities launched Project Double Barrel Alpha to focus on tracking down drug producers and suppliers.
Critics say that never happened and the crackdown has been fixed on peddlers and users in urban poor neighbourhoods, which have borne the brunt of the 3,900 killings by police during anti-drugs operations.
Police say armed suspects resisted arrest in every one of those cases and deny allegations victims were executed. Police say some 2,300 killings by unknown gunmen have also occurred, likely drug-related.
Duterte has lashed out several times when responding to comments from experts, calling some “idiots” for contradicting his views, or for advocating strategies to target the source of the drugs, rather than consumers.
The change in tack comes at a difficult time for Duterte, who though still hugely popular, saw a sharp decline in ratings according to an opinion poll released on Sunday.
It also followed an anti-Duterte protest last month by thousands of people in Manila, and a series of surveys that point to doubts among many Filipinos about the validity of police accounts, and whether those killed were all drug dealers.
Duterte’s move follows the high-profile August killing of a 17year- old student by police, which triggered rare public outrage.
The new order that sidelines the police and leaves the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) the sole agency for the drugs war could impact the intensity of the crackdown.
It has only a fraction of the manpower and budget of the police. Duterte placed PDEA in charge back in January and suspended police from all anti-drugs operations, but reinstated them a few week later, arguing that drugs had returned to the streets.
This picture from the Vietnam News Agency shows residents standing at an end of a destroyed bridge in the northern province of Yen Bai. — AFP photo
This file photo shows Nanette Castillo grieving next to the body of her son Aldrin, an alleged drug user killed by unidentified assailants, in Manila. — AFP photo