How China & Vietnam were able to save lives
Published Oct 13, 2005 2:20 AM
China and Vietnam were able to move millions
of people out of harm’s way when struck by fierce typhoons, Khanun and
Damrey, at the end of September.
The most affected areas were Vie t
nam’s northern coastal regions and China’s Hainan Island, a large
island in the South China Sea. These typhoons were the worst in a decade for
Vietnam and in three decades for China.
Typhoons, the Pacific equivalent
of Atlantic hurricanes, are regular occurrences in this area but this
season’s have been especially intense.
While these typhoons did
result in over 100 deaths, tens of thousands homeless and serious damage to
Vietnam’s agriculture, the two countries were remarkably successful in
averting even greater loss of life.
Both countries managed to carry out
efficient, rapid and large-scale evacuations of their populations without the
astounding traffic jams or shameful and horrifying abandonment of the poor,
elderly, ill and people of color that so characterized the Hurricane Katrina
crisis in the U.S.
How could an economically poor country like Vietnam
and a rapidly developing country like China succeed in this area when the most
powerful imperialist country, the U.S., failed so dramatically? The answer is
priorities and organization.
Using buses, trucks and boats in advance of
the typhoons, China moved 1.8 million people and Vietnam evacuated 300,000 from
vulnerable coastal and low-lying regions to solid buildings, such as schools and
other government buildings, located on higher ground. China also moved 35,000
boats to avoid their damage by the winds and storm surge.
farmers returning home after Typhoon Damrey passed over were then trapped by
flash floods, but military amphibious vehicles were used to rescue them. One
local official observed that while the dike system in northern Vietnam had been
seriously damaged, the people were successfully evacuated.
Once the storms
had passed, emergency shipments of food and water were rushed in. In Vietnam,
25,000 soldiers were immediately assigned to ensure the safety of the people:
first to rescue the stranded; then to shore up the damaged dike systems to
protect the farmland; to help with the environmental cleanup after many villages
and rice paddies were flooded with sea water, and finally to rebuild homes.
The Vietnamese government’s plans for this kind of disaster include
taking food from national reserves and from regional warehouses to distribute to
the people in the affected regions. Medical teams were quickly rushed in to
avoid or minimize any cholera outbreak.
Most loss of life in Vietnam came
from the difficulty of predicting flash floods following the heavy rains of
Typhoon Damrey. Some occurred in the mountains behind the affected coast and
others in areas to which people had returned to try to reconstruct their homes
Both China and Vietnam had long revolutionary struggles
against imperialist domination that were led by parties committed not only to
national liberation but also to building socialism—a process that is still
ongoing as they strive to develop.
Natural disasters cannot always be
avoided, but governments and communities organized to ensure people before
profits can succeed in averting unnecessary loss of life and in bringing about a
return to normal conditions as quickly as possible.
Articles copyright 1995-2012 Workers World.
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