Vietnam turns to clean-up as flooding recedes

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Oct 02 2009 04:48 PM | Updated as of Oct 03 2009 12:48 AM

QUANG BINH - With deadly flood waters receding in parts of typhoon-struck Vietnam on Friday, residents hung clothes out to dry, cleared fallen trees and cleaned the muck left by one of the country's worst disasters in recent years.

In central Quang Binh province, more than 200 kilometers (124 miles) north of the area that was pounded with Ketsana's full force, some houses were still sealed off by water while others were already drying out.

"I cleaned it yesterday," said one woman, referring to her house, as she turned her attention to scooping mud out of a shallow well which she stood inside.

Stones and sandbags that her family had left on the tile roof of their house had prevented serious damage, she added, refusing to give her name.

Vietnam's death toll reached 99 on Friday with another 14 missing, said an official from the national flood and storm control committee.

The heaviest losses were in the fishing province of Quang Ngai, near where Ketsana made landfall on Tuesday with winds that state media said reached up to 149 kilometers (90 miles) per hour.

Quang Ngai recorded 27 deaths with another 21 killed in Kon Tum, a mountainous province with a large population of poor ethnic minority tribes, an official said.

In the impoverished fishing village of Rong in Hue city, wet clothes hung on fences and trees while women moved furniture outside to dry or cleaned the muddy floors of their metal-roofed houses late Thursday.

"We are still cleaning up but things will be OK," said Nguyen Van Tam, 48.

Officials were concentrating on returning the evacuees to their homes "and cleaning the environment which was very polluted after the passage of the typhoon", said an official from the flood and storm committee in Quang Ngai. "It was dirty but... we helped each other so it was a lot of fun," said Nguyen Van Ngoc, a sailor in Rung village.

He was among the hundreds of thousands of people who fled their homes because of the storm, adding that he only returned on Wednesday to clean up after the sea water, which reached halfway up his single-storey house, had drained away.

Another villager, Pham Chau, 47, was fixing the net in an enclosure where he farms shrimp and fish.

About half of the enclosure was damaged by the storm, causing "considerable" losses, he said.

"We will only know really how much we lost in terms of fish and shrimp in the next few days," said Chau, who said he might have to turn to loan sharks to rebuild his fish farm.

"I don't have much in my savings now," he said. "I could not get any more bank loans because I haven't settled the debt" on a previous loan.

In Vietnam, the typhoon caused damage initially estimated at 120 million dollars, the government said on Thursday in a detailed report obtained by AFP.

It said more than 170,000 homes were flooded, thousands of farm animals died and almost 50,000 hectares (120,000 acres) of farmland were damaged in a country which is the world's second-largest rice exporter.

On Friday, the United States said it would provide 100,000 dollars worth of assistance to help victims of the typhoon after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said her country stands ready "to assist the people of Vietnam as they recover from this tragedy".

For some, the cleanup and recovery has still not begun.

"My house is still inundated with about one meter of water," Nguyen Thi Kieu, 17, said as she waited Friday for her brother to take her back home on a raft made of banana trees.

"I think there will be no water in the next two days if it doesn't rain anymore," she said. "I hope I can get back to school on Monday."