Viet­nam hit by flood­ing, tox­ins from coal plants

The China Post - - LIFE GUIDE POST -

Viet­nam is strug­gling to help com­mu­ni­ties hit by toxic mud­slides af­ter tor­ren­tial rain in a ma­jor coal-min­ing area in north­ern Quang Ninh province, home to the UNESCO-listed Ha­long Bay tourist site.

Quang Ninh was last week hit by the heav­i­est rain recorded in 40 years, with up to 800 mil­lime­ters in some ar­eas, caus­ing flood­ing, land­slides and toxic sludge spills from coal mines.

Sev­en­teen peo­ple have been killed, in­clud­ing two fam­i­lies in Mong Duong dis­trict who were caught in a toxic mud­slide on July 26 which buried the en­tire com­mu­nity in up to two me­ters of sludge from a nearby mine.

“In one sec­ond, mud and rock smashed into my house. We were lucky to es­cape with our daugh­ter,” To Thi Huyen, 37, an ele­men­tary school teacher, re­called.

“We have noth­ing now, as the house and all our as­sets are in the mud. We don’t know what hap­pens next,” Huyen told AFP.

Huyen and some 200 other af­fected peo­ple are liv­ing in an emer­gency shel­ter set up by lo­cal author­i­ties in the area.

Pham Ngoc Lu, a lo­cal of­fi­cial in Mong Duong, said they were do­ing their best to help the af­fected com­mu­ni­ties.

“We’re pro­vid­ing food and other ne­ces­si­ties,” he said.

Viet­nam’s famed Ha­long Bay her­itage site is sur­rounded by thou­sands of hectares of open­face coal mines and mul­ti­ple coal- fired power plants.

The tor­ren­tial rain has caused sludge from the mines to spill onto lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, cre­at­ing what ac­tivists call im­me­di­ate and on­go­ing health and en­vi­ron­men­tal haz­ards.

“We are deeply con­cerned by the pace of this un­fold­ing dis­as­ter and its sheer scale,” said Robert Kennedy, pres­i­dent of Water­keeper Al­liance, an NGO that cam­paigns for clean drink­ing wa­ter.

At the Mong Duong coal mine, pro­duc­tion has been sus­pended since the rains hit last week. The mine was af­fected by mud­slides, but was not the source of the del­uge that hit the nearby com­mu­nity — which came from another coal mine.

Bull­doz­ers and trucks are work­ing through the night to clear the mud at the mine it­self, said com­pany of­fi­cial Tran Quang Canh.

“We’re try­ing to save the mine and re­cover our pro­duc­tion to keep our more than 4,000 la­bor­ers em­ployed,” Canh said.

Canh said it would take at least 10 days for part of the mine to be brought back into op­er­a­tion, and a fur­ther three months to get the mine back to nor­mal pro­duc­tion.

The shut­downs at the coal mines in Quang Ninh have prompted state mo­nop­oly Elec­tric­ity of Viet­nam to urge the public to save power.

Usu­ally, Viet­nam has at least 18 coal power plants in op­er­a­tion, along­side a num­ber of hy­dro­elec­tric plants.

AFP

Peo­ple col­lect coal from a flooded river next to the Mong Duong coal mine fol­low­ing heavy rains in the north­ern coastal province of Quang Ninh, Viet­nam, Satur­day, Aug. 1.

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