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Cyclone Ketsana – homes collapsed like a pack of cards

Friday 2 Oct, Da Nang, Vietnam – 23:30 local

First distribution went well. We got 200 packages of household items to needy families. More on its way. We spoke to several families whose houses were completely destroyed by the winds from Cyclone Ketsana. The houses with weaker walls and badly fixed roofs went down like a house of cards. It’s a mess. We talk to a family with two young children – one boy, one girl – and look at what is left of their house. Broken bricks, torn corrugated iron sheeting and a smashed wooden boat.

“What will you do?”

“We’ll try to find a place to stay, but we don’t know where yet. We know someone will help us in the village, we will be ok”.

The father and daughter have been ill for two days – a respiratory problem from the damp and dirty conditions.

The flood water in the town is going down quickly (from 2m to 0.5m in 24 hrs) and this is good news. We talk to a family who tell us how high the water came. They show us a kindergarten that will be closed until a foot of mud can be cleared and the whole place cleaned up.

The positive side is that injury and death were minimized by the evacuation before the storm. People in weak houses were warned to leave as the storm headed across the South China sea from the Philippines.

Corrugated iron roofs on schools and other public buildings were sandbagged to stop them being lifted off by the typhoon. A flying corrugated iron sheet can kill as we saw to devastating effect with Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar last year. Mostly it worked showing that disaster preparedness is a good investment in a place subject to so many Typhoons.

A phone call: Two of the teams in the northern provinces have resorted to boats – the only means of getting to villages cut off by the flood water. I speak to Gia, a colleague in Quang Tri. He tells me he’s worried by what he’s seeing. It seems like the storm dumped large quantities of rain when it hit the mountains. That was three days ago and the deep and dangerous flood waters are still to subside. There’s no food and people are cut off from health facilities. Gia tells me about a young boy who was crushed by a wall toppled by the flash flood. His arm is broken. They organize to get him to a nearby clinic by boat.

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