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Caritas appeals for support to help fishing communities

Mass die-off of marine life in central Vietnam’s coastal waters has resulted in communities losing their livelihood

Caritas appeals for support to help fishing communities

A Vietnamese villager shows dead fish he collected on a beach in Phu Loc district, in the central province of Thua Thien Hue, April 21. (Photo by AFP)

Published: May 31, 2016 08:05 AM GMT

The head of Caritas Vietnam has appealed to the public to offer financial assistance to those affected by an environmental disaster in central Vietnam's coastal waters, which has killed more than 100 tons of fish.

Bishop Thomas Vu Dinh Hieu, head of the Episcopal Commission on Charitable and Social Actions Caritas Vietnam, said the marine catastrophe has seriously affected local people's lives and livelihoods.

"We have been given many demands for help from Vinh Diocese and Hue Archdiocese" that covers four provinces affected by the disaster, Bishop Hieu said in a letter issued May 26.

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The mass deaths of marine life, that began early April, is believed to be linked to a Taiwanese-built steel plant owned by Formosa Plastics. The plant discharges some 10,000-cubic-meters of toxic waste into the water daily. Preliminary investigations suggest toxic substances may be at fault, though the government has yet to point a finger at Formosa.

Bishop Hieu urged Catholics "to pray and show our compassion for brothers and sisters in this difficult situation."

He also asked Caritas in other dioceses to promote the campaign for financial aid.


Fishing folk need to eat

Due to the environmental disaster, Father Peter Hoang Anh Ngoi of Con Se parish in Vinh Diocese said the people in his area now had no source of livelihood.

Father Ngoi said that most of his parishioners who lived on fishing have berthed their boats because there are no fish in the waters.

People also refuse to eat seafood out of fear it could be contaminated.

"Local fishermen are now bearing heavy debt burdens from banks because they borrowed money to build fishing boats," Father Ngoi said.

"If the sea dies, the fishermen die," he said.

Father Ngoi has asked Father Joseph Le Quang Uy, who heads the Charitable Work Office of Redemptorists, to provide emergency rice for 3,650 people in the parish.

Father Uy said during May 12-30 his office has collected more than 1.2 billion dong (U.S.$53,932) from benefactors, which has been used to buy rice for those affected in Vinh Diocese parishes.

The mass marine die-off and a sense of inadequate government reaction has led to rare large-scale protests in Ho Chi Minh City and elsewhere in the country, which the authorities have struggled to contain.


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