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A giant bulldozer has driven down the valley

We have a morning meeting and briefing with the local government, who seem impressively efficient and technologically advanced – they show a video of the typhoon from the national TV station. It looks bad – the footage was taken on Saturday and the floodwater was still up to roof level.

Dodging landslides on the road, we slowly make our way up into the Da Krong valleyb where all the bad news reports have been coming from. The evidence of the impact of the typhoon is everywhere. The river valley, which used to be so calm people could walk across it, has gouged its way down the valley with great force. All along the banks trees are down and it looks like the water had risen to 10 metres.

Each stop on the route tells a story of devastation. In a school where the floodwaters had reached the rafters, pupils sit outside cleaning mud from the cover of their ruined textbooks, trying to salvage whatever they can from the debris that could help their education. A ruined muddy computer lies with its workings exposed in a pile of mud – I wonder how long it will take this school to afford another one.

Then we reach a village that was cut off by landslides until this morning. It’s a devastating scene. Houses were completely swept away – absolutely nothing left but the concrete foundations and some muddy timbers. I’ve said the line “the most vulnerable families are worst affected in emergencies” countless times in media interviews, but here it was in stark reality. Poor families who had flimsy homes built of bamboo are left with absolutely nothing. A few miles away those who were able to afford to build sturdier houses still had a home standing.

Nobody died in this community so this means that families are together and there are no child protection issues. People are living with neighbours or relatives, so they haven’t been taken away from people and places they know. There are also thankfully no reports of children being orphaned. Although their parents tell us they are still scared, it’s good to see the children just playing happily together. It’s amazing how resilient they are.

We’re all a bit subdued on the drive home. Nick goes straight into action mode and as soon as we’re back in mobile range is making calls and making big plans. I sit in the front of the car typing up a press release trying to put my thoughts into a statement that will convey the situation. I overhear Nick telling someone it looks like a giant bulldozer has driven down the valley – I have my headline.

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