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A tale of two giants, the sea versus the mountains

Today is international disaster reduction day, and the main event to mark this occasion in Vietnam is taking place in Hue, and has been organized by Save the Children, along with other international agencies and government departments.

Everything is ticking along quite well in the distributions and the teams in both provinces are taking a break this morning. We’ve reached 11,000 families so far. It’s a great achievement but everyone is shattered.

I attend the disaster reduction event for a short time in the morning, and meet some of our partners in the provincial government. They’re an important part to us getting this response right and we get to know each other better. It’s a good turnout, probably about 2000 people. The first part of the event has several speeches. The theme is “Safer Hospitals”. Most speakers talk about the Typhoon Ketsana as a clear example of why disaster risk reduction is important. I have to do a short speech about what Save the Children is doing.

Next, some of the local schools perform a play about a god and his assistant sitting in the clouds and looking down at people in Vietnam and asking what people are doing when the storm comes. It’s very funny with some great costumes and makes some strong points about protecting the forests and the mangroves to make people safer from disasters. After this everyone gets on their bikes and rides in formation around the streets of Hue. The message is that if we’re worried about disasters we all need to live a more environmentally-friendly life.

I learn about an ancient legend in Vietnam that describes two great forces. The giant in the sea is the evil force and brings problems to the people. The giant in the mountains is the good force and protects the people from the evil in the sea. It shows me how Typhoons from the South China Sea are deeply rooted in the culture in central Vietnam.

The problem is that in the recent times, more flash floods are coming from the mountains because of higher rainfall and deforestation. There isn’t a legend to explain this yet. It’s as if the giant in the mountains is turning bad.

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