Floods and land­slides kill 37 in Viet­nam

Scores miss­ing, tens of thou­sands evac­u­ated as fore­cast­ers warn of more bad weather to come

The Borneo Post - - FRONT PAGE -

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

AFP.

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

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