Church workers in Vietnam are rushing to provide emergency supplies to people cut off after some of the worst floods in decades hit the country's northern and central mountainous provinces. Flash floods and landslides triggered by torrential rains over the last few weeks have inundated eight provinces, according to officials. Vietnam's Central Steering Committee for Natural Disaster Prevention and Control reported on Sept. 4 the floods had killed 14 people, while four others were missing. They also damaged or destroyed 1,200 houses, 5,700 hectares of crops, and killed 60,200 heads of cattle and poultry. Thanh Hoa
was the worst hit province according to the church's social action arm. At least five parishes were badly affected by the floods, according to Caritas
officials in Thanh Hoa Diocese, adding that a church in Phong Y parish and one in Da Loc sub-parish were completely flooded. Many local Catholics sought shelter at the parish house while others climbed up onto their house roofs to escape rising floodwater, Caritas said. Father James Mai Van Toan, a local parish priest, three other priests, seminarians and lay leaders were using boats to move people to higher ground and provided basic supplies. Church sources said thousands of students were affected as schools were also badly damaged and would remain shut despite the new academic year starting on Sept. 5. It took Father Paul Nguyen Van Thuong, director of the local Caritas branch, and his team more than seven hours to cover 70 kilometers on Sept. 2 to provide aid to Phong Y parish because some bridges had collapsed and roads were inundated, according to one church worker. Father Thuong has since appealed for donations of money, food, clothes and other supplies to help ease victims' losses and suffering. Father Joseph Nguyen Tien Lien, who serves Mai Lien parish in Son La Province
, said local Catholics had offered bread, clean water, clothes, mosquito nets and blankets to flood victims in hard-hit Hat Lot town, eight kilometers away from their parish. Some 100 families had all their belongings washed in the worst floods seen since 1991, he said. "Lay leaders are calculating victims' losses and plan to provide basic supplies for them. In the future we will seek financial support and build houses for those who had their homes destroyed," Father Lien said.