By Mai Nguyen
HANOI (Reuters) – Heavy rain in northern and central Vietnam triggered floods and landslides that killed 46 people and 33 people were missing in the worst such disaster in years, the search and rescue committee said on Thursday.
Vietnam often suffers destructive storms and floods due to its long coastline. More than 200 people were killed in storms last year.
“In the past 10 years, we haven’t suffered from such severe and intense floods,” state-run Vietnam Television quoted agriculture minister Nguyen Xuan Cuong as saying.
A typhoon tore a destructive path across central Vietnam just last month, flooding and damaging homes and knocking out power lines.
The latest floods hit Vietnam on Monday.
“Our entire village has had sleepless nights…it’s impossible to fight against this water, it’s the strongest in years,” a resident in northwestern Hoa Binh province was quoted by VTV as saying.
Vietnam’s Central Steering Committee for Natural Disaster Prevention and Control said authorities were discharging water from dams to control water levels.
Some 317 homes had collapsed, while more than 34,000 other houses were submerged or had been damaged.
Earlier reports said more than 8,000 hectares (19,800 acres) of rice had been damaged and around 40,000 animals were killed or washed away.
Hoa Binh province in the northwest declared a state of emergency and opened eight gates to discharge water at Hoa Binh dam, Vietnam’s largest hydroelectric dam, the first time it has done so in years, VTV reported.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc visited northern Ninh Binh province where water levels in the Hoang Long river are their highest since 1985.
Rising sea levels are also threatening Vietnam’s more than 3,260 km (2,000 mile) coastline, resulting in increased flooding of low lying coastal regions, erosion and salt water intrusion.
Floods have also affected seven of 77 provinces in Thailand, Vietnam’s neighbor to the west, the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation said on Thursday. More than 480,000 hectares (1.2 million acres) of agricultural land have been hit, the department said.
Thailand is the world’s second-biggest exporter of rice.
“It is still too soon to tell whether there will be damage to rice crops because most of the rice has already been harvested,” Charoen Laothamatas, president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, told Reuters.
In 2011, Thailand was hit by its worst flooding in half a century. The floods killed hundreds and crippled industry, including the country’s key automotive sector.
(Additional reporting by Mi Nguyen in HANOI and; Suphanida Thakral in BANGKOK; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre, Neil Fullick and Nick Macfie)