Father Peter Phan Kim Huan (left) with aid recipients in Lao Cai province on April 27. (Photo courtesy of Father Huan)
Catholics in northern Vietnam have rushed to provide emergency relief for thousands of villagers whose properties were heavily damaged by floods and hail.
The Disaster Management Authority reported that floods and landslides triggered by heavy rains and high winds hit the six provinces of Dien Bien, Ha Giang, Lai Chau, Lao Cai, Son La and Yen Bai from April 22-24, leaving five dead, one missing and 37 others injured.
The disaster also damaged 12,700 houses and ruined 4,300 hectares of crops.
Father Peter Phan Kim Huan, pastor of Pho Lu Parish in Lao Cai, said a group of two priests and other people led by him visited and offered emergency food to tens of ethnic Dao, Hmong and Kinh families in his parish on April 27. Each family was given 25 kilograms of rice, a package of instant noodles and money.
Father Huan said the aid was donated by Father Francis Xavier Nguyen Duc Dai from Huu Bang Parish in Bac Ninh province and Father Joseph Hoang Quoc Oai, a Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate priest who works in the province.
“We want to share love and sympathy with our brothers and sisters in need and help ease their suffering,” he said.
Father Huan said 600 families in the province had their houses damaged or destroyed, and some families are having to stay in pig pens. Most of their cattle died during the floods.
“Local people will suffer from starvation in the coming months because they lost all crops,” he said, adding that they need building materials to rebuild or repair their houses.
He said they are giving gifts to 1,000 families in the worst-hit Phong Tho district of Lai Chau province.
Mary Nguyen Thi Ky, from a charity group in Muong So Subparish, said she and other local Catholics have raised funds for victims. Benefactors donated 30 million dong (US$1,287), rice, instant noodles, salt, clothes, blankets, mosquito nets and canvas to cover roofs.
“On April 25, we visited and offered emergency aid to 200 Dao ethnic families from Ban Lang Commune,” the mother of four said.
Ky, 36, said some 1,000 families from Phong Tho district are suffering a lack of food as their properties, crops and cattle were destroyed by hail and floods.
She said they shivered with cold as their clothes were wet. “Many had to wear plastic pieces and children lied on straw. Dead pigs and chickens stank out the air,” she said.
Mary Vu Thi Lan, another group member, said they used five vans to carry food to other places on April 27. They offered food to 200 families on each trip.
She said people badly need canvas to cover their damaged houses to shelter from bad weather. It was the biggest hailstorm in the area for 50 years. Pieces of hail as big as eggs damaged houses and crops, she added.
Father Huan, who started to work in the area in 2016, said people have suffered annual natural disasters — floods, storms, landslides and whirlwinds — caused by climate change resulting from rampant deforestation, hydroelectric plant construction and extreme mining.
Natural disasters, mostly floods and landslides, killed 133 people in Vietnam last year and caused losses worth around 7 trillion dong (US$303 million), according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.