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The BBC's Simon Ingram reports
"Residents tell aid workers they need help to find new homes"
 real 28k

Monday, 22 May, 2000, 13:35 GMT 14:35 UK
Vietnam: legacy of the floods
Canal at Hue city
The Forbidden City faces flood damage annually
By Simon Ingram in Hue city

On the beaches of central Vietnam, you scarcely notice the traces of what was the worst natural disaster to hit the country in decades.



I'd never seen floods like it

Flood survivor Nguyen Du
Last November, a flourishing tourist village near the historic city of Hue was reduced to rubble by weeks of devastating floods.

Six months on, the remaining residents tell visiting aid workers they need help to find new homes.

Nguyen Du, a flood survivor, said his son and two nephews were swept out to sea and their bodies were never recovered. "I'd never seen floods like it," said the old man.


Map of Vietnam
At their height, the floodwaters extended across seven provinces - 70,000 hectares of farmland were wiped out. The city of Hue was cut off for days. More that 500 lives were lost.

With reconstruction work now well under way, the aim of the various aid organisations is to relocate as many settlements as possible to higher ground.

"It is important that they are less vulnerable for the next flood," said Francois Audet from the Canadian Centre for International Studies and Co-operation, "because we know that every year they will have floods here. So instead of putting their money every year in rebuilding new houses, they will use this money for new economic activity."

Fears for ancient city

While people can be moved, relocation is clearly not an option for Hue's historic Forbidden City.


Entrance to the Forbidden City of Hue
No protection for the Forbidden City
The stone walls of the one-time imperial capital are surrounded by water - a network of canals leading to the nearby Perfume River and overflow their banks almost every year.

The most recent floods virtually destroyed one building. Local historians fear it is only a matter of time before further damage is done.

"We have no means to protect this area," said Phan Thuan of the Hue Monuments Conservation Centre.

Resigned to their fate

Many local people seem equally resigned when it comes to the tribulation nature brings them each year.

Those living and working on boats are resisting calls for them to move onto dry land. And nobody, so far, is prepared to force them.

There is one inescapable fact in all this.

Water, one way or another, is at the very heart of people livelihoods in this part of Vietnam, with all the risks that that entails.

The typhoon season is still some months off. When it comes, another deluge is inevitable. Until then, the residents of this unusually vulnerable region will go about their lives as though such a threat never existed.

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See also:

06 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
Second flood swamps Vietnam
08 Nov 99 | Asia-Pacific
Aid reaches Vietnam flood victims
05 Nov 99 | Asia-Pacific
Death toll rises in Vietnam
04 Nov 99 | Asia-Pacific
Hundreds die in Vietnam floods
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