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Published: November 17th 2009
One of the flooded streets of Hoi An. Ketsana transformed the area into an instant river.
As we sat eating our dinner, the sky, which had appeared threatening all day, suddenly opened up and a downpour the likes of which I have never seen, just plummeted down to Earth. Continual flickering of background lightening was soon replaced with constant bright flashes of light and accompanied by rumbles of angry thunder. After an hour, the thunder became so loud it was frightening and one clap actually forced screams from the lips of all at the restaurant.
And so, Tropical Storm Ketsana was unleashed upon an unsuspecting Hoi An. For 24 hours, with the exception of an eery five hours of utter silence, she rained steadily down on the little heritage town. The wind was strong and whipped the trees like they were licorice straps. We were all warned not to go out as anything unattached would become airborne and cause injury or worse. Anything not tied down was indeed transformed into a flying missile, never to be seen again.
In the morning we timidly crept out to our balcony and peered out - the rice paddies out the back had completely disappeared, as had the street out the front. Everything as far as the eye could
Floating Door-to-Door Taxi Service
The flooded lobby in our hotel, into which the boats simply floated, loaded up and sailed off!
see had been replaced with an ocean of brown water! Our hotel was flooded to waist-height torrents, streets signs were barely visible, the bridges to An Hoi were submerged.
The height of the water for the first day after the flood made any attempt to salvage and clean an impossibility. Then, slowly but surely, the water started to recede. “But where does it all go?” the tourists in our hotel asked each other. Mysterious shrugs were the only reply.
Once the waters had receded to a safe and workable level, the issue became one of transport - how to get to the Lifestart Foundation Free School and the Lifestart Foundation Workshop so that we could check them for damage and conduct the clean-up? This issue was quickly solved by the resourceful locals - bikes and taxis were simply replaced by small fishing boats. We caught one from the staircase in our hotel lobby - the boat simply floated right into our hotel and in we jumped!
First stop was the Lifestart Foundation Workshop. Lifestart veterans and brothers Sinh and Tu had heroically spent the past two nights working without sleep to remove the contents of not only
A truck lies submerged, waiting for the waters to recede.
the Workshop but also Sinh’s art studio and other Viettown shop owners stock to higher, dryer ground. Not only this, but they had worked by candlelight whilst the waters were still high and removed the mud that the flood had bestowed upon the two rooms. Totally ignorant of matters such as mud depositing during a flood, I got on with the business of cleaning the workshop furniture with the other volunteers and gave the mud no further thought.
That was until, after finishing with the Workshop, we all caught another flotilla of boats to the Lifestart Free School. There, we were met with what can only be described as Willy Wonka’s worst nightmare! Chocolate brown mud everywhere! And so thick! After a quick lesson in mud-wrangling, we soon learned that the key is to push the thick, oozing, brown syrup out using the still-present flood water as a tool. If you wait until the water recedes completely the mud will dry out and then there is little chance of removing it.
Much was lost to Ketsana - particularly for the school. Stationery, white boards, toys, chairs, plastic storage containers…. the list goes on. We salvaged and washed what
Up to his Neck in it!
A local makes his way, albeit slowly, down the street to his home.
we could but little remained. These precious resources mean so much to the children who attend this school. What we, and the poor locals, found out later was that the Government had opened the dams prior to Ketsana to prevent them from bursting. A common practice sure enough, but no-one was told. So there was no warning. 93 people died in this flood;23 people missing, livestock was lost, property demolished entirely.
I was truly over-awed by the raw power of Mother Nature as a privileged observer of this tropical fury. I can’t help but feel a little nervous at the realisation that Hoi An was not on the receiving end of the eye of the storm - far from it. I can only sit and hope that the next Tropical Storm passes Hoi An by.
- Tropical Storm Ketsana blog and photographs by guest blogger Fiona Jones.
Ketsana left a trail of death and destruction in Central Vietnam. The storm destroyed at least 6,000 homes - and damaged or submerged more than 300,000.
A special thank you to Fiona Jones who wrote this blog as I have been super busy as usual.
Also an huge thank
But Where has the Street Gone?
In the areas worst hit, all that was visible to indicate the presence of the street below was the top of the street sign, like this one.
you to our Lifetstart Foundation team of volunteers who helped with the clean up of the school and workshop.
Lifestart Foundation volunteers Sue Long, Marelyn McDonald, Jade Leonard, Fiona Jones, Ros and Michael, Merri and Russell formed the clean up team. This was a big job and I am extremely grateful for their help. I know that they didn't sign up for a typhoon and flood when they came over to volunteer for Lifestart but I am so glad that they were there to help.
A big thank you to all of the Vietnamese Lifestart Foundation Staff and Volunteers. Their homes were also damaged by Ketsana and the flood but they all arrived at work to help out. Thank you to Tu, Sinh, Phuong, Dung, Sang, Gai, Phuc and Mr Giap.
Ketsana and the subsequent flood that followed was an experience for all that were there on many levels. We were somewhat prepared for Ketsana but not for the flood. This was the first time in the history of Hoi An that a flood had followed a Typhoon, we now know that this was due to the dam being opened. We have a flood plan but had no
Resourceful locals wait on higher ground to ferri others to their destinations. When the floods come, boats take the places of bikes and cars.
time to action it effectively. Being without power, phones, any communication and food for days was an eye opener. I must say that during the whole devastating experience that not once did I see anyone angry or upset. That was truly amazing! Everyone just rolled their sleeves up and did what needed to be done, and not one complaint from anyone. People started to arrive at the Lifestart Workshop after the water receded with only the clothes on their backs, obviously needing assistance but still with a smile on their face.
There are 53 photos on this blog. The familiar saying " A picture is worth a thousand words" is so true.
Would you like to help the Lifestart Free School get on its feet again? If you are able to help in any way either by cash or resource donation, please contact Karen via this blog or email on firstname.lastname@example.org
My apologies for the feast or famine with the blogs. In a perfect world I would post a blog each month, unfortunately time and the nature of the workload in Vietnam does not always permit me to write the blogs in this orderly fashion.
The Boys in Green!
The Army arrives in Hoi An to commence the monumental effort of mud removal from public places. They arrived to cheers from tourists and locals alike! A group of army boys arrived to help us clear the school grounds.
When all is quiet on the blog front rest assured that I am snowed under and when you do get a flood of blogs it generally means that I am back in Australia with a window of time and some clear head space!
Lots of Love from
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127 Phan Chu Trinh Street,
Hoi An, Vietnam.
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