Vietnam Ravaged By Floods

Thousands of soldiers and relief workers flew over and boated through Vietnam's flood-ravaged central provinces on Tuesday, delivering emergency supplies to some of the 1 million people who have lost their homes.

Torrential rains triggered by a cold spell have dumped more than six feet of water in some areas since Thursday, flooding hundreds of thousands of homes. At least 114 people have died.

The central provinces, home to 7.5 million people, had only just begun recovering from devastating floods last month. The area include some of Vietnam's most well-known destinations, from the white sands of China Beach to the ancient port city of Hoi An.

Vietnam's rescue forces responded rapidly to the latest disaster, learning new lessons from the November floods, which claimed nearly 600 lives.

Within 48 hours of the rainfall Thursday, military helicopters were making airdrops of food to flood-stricken areas. By Sunday, more than 5,000 soldiers had been dispatched to help relief efforts.

"Without their swift response, we could have suffered bigger losses," said Le Tri Tap, the governor of Quang Nam province. Tap said 150,000 people in his province alone still needed emergency food but that Tuesday's reopening of Highway One, the country's main artery, would ease deliveries.

Despite the rain, military helicopters were able to resume relief flights to Quang Ngai province Tuesday afternoon, said Col. Vu Quoc Bao, chief of the air force division in Danang.

Other relief agencies also were at work.

Racing along Thu Hong River in a speedboat Tuesday, Phan Tan Cat of the Danang Red Cross led 10 volunteers to areas of Quang Nam isolated by high water. Villagers in Duy Xuyen district waded out in knee-deep levels to collect the packages handed out by relief workers each with enough rice, drinking water and noodles to feed a family for a week.

Carrying his 4-year-old son on his shoulders, Bui Thi Hoa, 27, was stoic about the flooding that destroyed his newly replanted rice field.

"Every year the floods come. What can we do?" he said. "We have no choice but to bear it."

On Tuesday, floodwaters had begun receding and the downpour had stopped in most places, but rain was still falling in Quang Ngai. Vo Cuu of Quang Ngai's provincial flood and storm control bureau said 250,000 people in his province were in need of emergency food.
The National Committee for Flood and Storm Control said Tuesday that 5,395 houses were destroyed and 397,232 homes were submerged or damaged in the latest flooding.

No outbreaks of disease have been reported so far.

The United States was dispatching seven medical specialists to work with the International Red Cross and local experts to prevent any outbreaks, the U.S. embassy said Tuesday. The team was to arrive Wednesday.