Caritas workers are providing emergency aid to flood victims in remote northwestern provinces of Vietnam where activities by Catholics are restricted by the communist government. Bishop Joseph Nguyen Van Yen, vice president of Caritas Vietnam, led a six-member delegation to visit flood victims in Mu Cang Chai district of Yen Bai Province on Aug.17. "Local Catholics have not been recognized by government authorities, so we try to pay quick, quiet visits to victims, console them and give them money so that they can deal with their situation," Bishop Yen told ucanews.com just before the visit. The prelate said victims badly need financial assistance to help repair houses, buy basic foods and seeds to cultivate crops. Village children also require books and clothes for the new school year starting early September. Bishop Yen said the delegation would explore the situation faced by local people to make plans to help them in the future. Father Joseph Nguyen Trong Duong, who oversees Mu Cang Chai district, said the floods left nine people dead, five others missing and 70 households stranded in the district. "Local people had their houses, cattle and crops washed away. Many have to stay at other people's houses or public buildings," Father Duong said. Most of them are Hmong ethnic villagers who live on hilly areas and work on farms for a living, he said. Father Duong said he led a group of Catholics from Nghia Lo parish to deliver 100 million dong (US$4,500) worth of rice, instant noodles, clothes and other supplies to seven families in Lao Chai Commune who had lost nearly everything due to the floods. They walked kilometers along muddy paths to provide the help. The priest also quietly paid pastoral visits to 20 Catholic families in Mu Cang Chai district where government authorities have banned religions since Auxiliary Bishop Alfonse Nguyen Huu Long of Hung Hoa visited this area in August 2016. The district has a population of 50,000 people, 90 percent of them are Hmong ethnic villagers. Flooding in the four mountainous provinces of Dien Bien, Lai Chau, Son La and Yen Bai was caused by heavy rains on Aug. 1-6. The floods claimed 26 dead and 15 people remain missing, stated the government which added that flooding destroyed 230 houses, 340 hectares of crops and 145 irrigation systems.
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