Thursday, November 14, 2013

Typhoon/s in the Vietnam Area.

Shelter: Filipino residents sleep on the floor of a gymnasium turned into an evacuation center in Sorsogon City in the Bicol region

A weather picture of Haylan
 note the well formed storm center
and the density around the center.
As many of our readers are well aware there was a horrendous typhoon, Haylan, that a few days ago devastated parts of the Philippine Islands and then veered north by northwest across the East Asia Ocean and swept across the eastern part of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam before heading into The People's Republic of China. 

Devastation: Debris which was washed in by the storm litters the road by the coastal village in Legazpi city. Residents now face a long clean up operation to repair the damage to their homes
Note the dead animal amidst the debri

A few friends have asked whether our area was affected and the answer is no with a clarification.  A tropical depression/storm did come our way a few days before Haylan did its damage and that storm caused some flooding in downtown HCMC but not in our area as far as we know.

Downpour: As well as strong winds, the typhoon brought with it torrential rain which caused landslides in rural parts of the country

  In other words the hit area was north and west of the campus.  Streets were flooded and we saw some pictures that showed some places that it looked like some downstairs open front stores might have been flooded, but no deaths that we heard about.  In the north a reported 13 people died in the swath cut by the storm on its way north and there was flooding and wind damage.  There were some more deaths in China but neither country had the terrible death toll and damages that occurred in the Philippines.  Although we have no positive way of knowing for sure my opinion is that is while there are the disaster groups trying to raise money for typhoon relief and they mention only the Philippines and not Vietnam or China [Or at least we have not heard of any relief being sent this way from other countries.].  On the other hand Vietnam sent $100,000 in emergency aid to the Philippines immediately, reportedly the same amount sent by the US government.

A picture of the typhoon from space
that again illustrates the power of the
storm and its strong construction.

Now, having said that it is important to realize the difference in the governments of the nations involved.  Vietnam is a Socialist Republic and takes as its first responsibility the security and safety of its people and therefore several days before the typhoon reached this area there were some extensive evacuations.  Then the people's army of Vietnam began moving large amounts of rice and other food stuffs into the areas along the east coast and the northern areas that were hit to provide immediate relief and life saving.  This is not a particular political criticism of the Philippines, no country could have escaped without widespread damage and desolation from a typhoon, a Pacific Ocean Hurricane, with winds of 195mph with gusts close to 250 mph.  If you have any doubts about global warming and the havoc it  is creating around the globe just consider what this storm did to the Islands.  At this  point we are hearing numbers like 12,000 dead, hundreds of thousands of housing lost, 800,000 people displaced and the tolls and the devastation will probably rise because of illness, malnutrition or starvation, and the like.  Our own nation has been having more hurricanes although from what we have heard and seen here this year there was an unexpected absence of hurricanes but the drought is still severe for the third year in big parts of the US including in our home town of Los Angeles.

It needs to be  added that we donate money almost ever day for disaster relief for the two typhoons that hit the central coast of Vietnam about 6 and 8 weeks ago respectively with great losses of crops, infrastructure, and some lives.  In the housing, dorm, where we live there is a box set up where we all drop money in to go to the areas that were flooded and suffered catastrophic wind damages around and north of Hue.

There have been large and regular blood drives here on campus along with the donation collections mentioned above.  These repeated typhoons do significant damage to Vietnam's infrastructure of electricity and water, flood crops and agricultural land, destroy rural housing, etc.  The level of systematic organization and mobilization in Vietnam is impressive -- advance monitoring and warnings, evacuation alerts and transportation (includes release of children from schools), collective sandbagging, mobilization of medical supplies and care as well as food, etc.  Since we've been in Vietnam the fishermen in some provinces have organized their own union -- citing improved boat-to-boat and harbor-to-boat communications for weather alerts as one of the motivations (other reasons include cooperative fishing to improve catches and better preserve the long term health of fishing stock environmentally and also to better deal collectively with brokers/middlemen).  Evidently already the fishermen are seeing results on the safety/protection of boats issue.  The issue of these serious storms hits close to home here on campus as many of the students come from the impacted provinces with working class/farmer families.

We know the scale of devastation in the Philippines is horrific -- and we know many of you are joining us and the people of Vietnam in sending whatever each of us can to our Filipino sisters and brothers as they meet the challenges ahead of finding surviving family, friends and neighbors, mourning the dead and rebuilding their lives and communities.

Our understanding of the critical importance of global warming and climate change is now more real.   Our sisters and brothers of the Asia Pacific region are strongly leading and calling us to action way beyond immediate disaster relief.  Our future's are shared!    

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