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Caritas workers learn disaster-management skills

Updated: December 15, 2009 10:44 AM GMT
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Caritas workers from many local dioceses have been taught how better to help people survive typhoons and floods at a recent workshop.


A flooded street in Ho Chi Minh City

The event, "Coping with Natural Disasters," provided skills on how to help people protect their homes and properties and rebuild their lives. Groups will now be set up to help local people respond rapidly to typhoons or floods in the future. The workshop was jointly organized by Caritas Vietnam and Caritas Germany. Pierre Nguyen Dinh Loc, a participant from Kon Tum diocese, told the workshop that Caritas workers in his diocese were caught unprepared by recent disasters and did not know how to cope. "After the workshop, we will be able to teach local people how to use sandbags to protect their houses and properties," Loc said. Typhoons Ketsana and Mirinea devastated the central region of Vietnam in September and November. During the workshop, participants learnt taught how to move people to safety, pile sandbags against flooding and take preventive measures before a disaster such as building dykes, harvesting crops and keeping clean water for use after typhoons or floods. Participants learnt also how to get food, medicine and other urgent relief aid to victims and how to clean up affected areas, evaluate damage and plan reconstruction.

Participants at the Caritas workshop discuss ways of reducing damage caused by natural disasters

Pham Van Dong, a Caritas worker from the southern Long Xuyen diocese where annual floods inundate local people´s houses and crops, told UCA News he is now better prepared for the next monsoon season. "We will give life jackets to local people, especially children, to save their lives in the rainy season when tens of local children drown each year," he said. Participants also discussed ways to work with other religious and governmental organizations. Father Antoine Nguyen Ngoc Son, secretary general of Caritas Vietnam, recalled that emergency supplies of instant noodles and rice were useless for many victims affected by Typhoons Ketsana and Mirinea. "Victims ... had nothing to cook with because their belongings, including pans and bowls, were washed away," he said. He urged participants to "do something helpful to protect our people´s life and properties from typhoons and floods rather than giving them relief aid." Caritas Vietnam gave some 1.5 billion dong (US$80,000) to dioceses affected by the two typhoons and plans to spend another 4 billion dong in social welfare programs to help victims return to their normal life. Vietnam is hit or affected by an average of 10 typhoons a year. A total of 36 priests, Religious and laypeople from 18 dioceses attended the workshop.

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