HotSpots H2O: In a Year of Unrelenting Floods, Yet Another Storm Hits Central Vietnam

Street flooded in Vietnam. © Trilemedia

Tropical storm Etau passed through central Vietnam last week as Typhoon Vamco, which struck the Philippines the same week, arrived Sunday.  After months of intense storms and flooding, Etau is the twelfth to hit the country this year and the eighth in the past month.

Originally a tropical depression, Etau ramped up to a tropical storm last Monday as it passed across the South China Sea, which the Vietnamese call the East Sea. The storm made landfall on Tuesday and brought torrential rainfall and flash floods to the provinces of Phú Yen, Bính Dinh, Khánh Hoa and other regions. More than a foot of rain fell in many places. Two people have died so far.

Since the start of monsoon season in early October, an unrelenting parade of storms has brought immense flooding throughout nine provinces in Vietnam’s central region. An estimated 7.7 million people have been exposed to flooding, 1.5 million affected, and just under 200,000 in need of immediate assistance, according to the United Nations.

The most damaging of the storms was Typhoon Molave which struck the Vietnamese coast three weeks ago. Some 1.3 million people fled from the storm, which caused widespread damage to farms, roads, schools, and homes. More than 290,000 homes are in need of rebuilding, according to the International Federation of the Red Cross. Many people have been moved to shelters.

Thousands in Vietnam are without water, hygiene, and food. Crops and water supplies have been destroyed in areas that experienced some of the worst flooding in years, and 700 communities were left without power.

“Relief teams are stretched to the limit due to these back-to-back storms,” said Nguyen Hung Ha, the IFRC’s Bangkok-based program coordinator. “We must redouble our efforts to get critical food, drinking water, tarpaulins, and blankets to all those who need it.”

To confront the current situation, the UN Country Team in Vietnam is also calling for $40 million in disaster relief. The plan covers assistance and recovery efforts on the ground for six months, including support in evacuation sites that do not have the resources to meet sanitation and clean water needs. The Covid-19 pandemic, which exacerbates the impact of the floods, has the Vietnamese government and NGOs on red alert for outbreaks. Though no outbreaks have since been recorded, aid entities aim to prevent any new ones from emerging.

Due to the number of storms in the region this year, climate scientists are beginning to look for clues as to why. The World Weather Attribution group will conduct detailed research on this year’s monsoon season, looking at the role of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. WWA scientists will assess the relationship between these disasters and human-induced climate change. The group has analyzed the role of climate change for other weather disasters, including rainfall in Japan, flooding in Bangladesh, and the Siberian heatwave in 2020.

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