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Northern Vietnam hit by deadly floods and landslides after longest heatwave in 49 years


Heavy rains have been affecting northern parts of Vietnam over the past three days, particularly the Ha Giang Province, causing severe floods and landslides that resulted in property damage and five casualties, as of Tuesday, July 21, 2020. The rains came after the region experienced its longest heatwave in 49 years, with temperatures up to 2.5 °C (4.5 °F) higher than average.

Among the victims were a 44-year-old woman and her 15-year-old daughter, who were asleep when rocks collapsed onto their house in Hoang Su Phi. Authorities attempted to rescue the victims, but they were unable to pull them out alive. 

A 48-year-old woman and her 13-year-old daughter were buried as landslides struck Ha Giang Town. Rescue personnel found them several hours after the incident and rushed them to hospital, but the daughter was declared dead while the mother survived.

In Bac Quang District, a two-year-old child died after drowning in floodwaters.

Also on Tuesday morning, a truck passing in Bac Me District slid into a nearby stream. Authorities deployed bulldozers to recover the vehicle, but according to district chairman Cung Thi May, the driver was found dead.

The Ha Giang Province has been affected by flooding during the past three days due to heavy rains. As a result, traffic jams and landslides occurred in many areas. Most streets were inundated about 1 m (3 feet) deep.

A section of National Highway 2 was impassable due to a collapsed gate. Floodwaters also swept away two cars into the Lo River.

"The city has never been as severely flooded as now. We’re busy calculating the damage," said Nguyen Manh Thang, chief of Ha Giang Town People's Committee.

As the rain has subsided, Hoang Su Phi District deputy chairman Trieu Son An said authorities were monitoring and evacuating people from places prone to landslides.

In nearby Quan Ba District, floods and landslides buried structures in Thai An Hydropower Plant, prompting officials to pause operations.

More heavy rains are forecast in Lai Chau, Lao Cai, and Ha Giang on Wednesday, July 22, said the Central Steering Committee on Natural Disaster Prevention and Control.

Landslides and flooding may still occur in these regions, the committee warned.

The National Center for Hydro-meteorological Forecasting (NCHMF) issued a level 1 warning for floods, flash floods, and landslide due to heavy rain across the provinces of Lai Chau, Lao Cai, Yen Bai, Ha Giang, Tuyen Quang, Cao Bang, and Bac Kan, Son La, Hòa Bình, and Thái Nguyên.

The rainy weather came after northern Vietnam experienced its longest heatwave ever in 49 years last month.

NCHMF revealed that the region recorded 21 days of hot spells in June, with average temperatures 1.5 to 2.5 °C (2.7 to 4.5 °F) higher than the past years. This is considered the longest heatwave in the area since 1971.

Temperatures between 36 to 39 °C (96.8 to 102.2 °F) were recorded in the provinces of Lang Son, Bac Ninh, Bac Giang, Hai Duong, Hung Yen, Ha Nam, and Ninh Binh

The heatwave was caused by a low-pressure from the west and the Foehn wind– a dry and warm, down-sloping wind that occurs in the lee side of a mountain, according to NCHMF head Nguyen Van Huong.

Featured image credit: Nguyễn Tất Thắng/YouTube

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