Vietnam: bishops issue urgent appeal for storm victims

one of many homes washed away

one of many homes washed away

Bishops in Vietnam have issued an urgent appeal  today after a tropical storm killed at least 92 people  and injured many more. There are warnings that severe flooding caused by the storm may bring about serious hunger threat for hundreds of thousands victims, and that a new typhoon is gaining its strength to hit the eastern coast on this weekend. Catholic parishes  have offered sanctuary to many  storm and flood victims.

Vietnam annually suffers from tropical storms and typhoons but the death toll this year far exceeds the deaths recorded in 2006, when tropical storm Durian killed 70 in the country's south, and the typhoon Xangsane which left more than 70 dead in central Vietnam.

Ketsana hit central Vietnam on Tuesday after fatally devastating the Philippines, where it killed 277. Coastal provinces of Quang Tri, Hue, Quang Ngai and Danang experienced strong winds of category 11 to 12, rising to level 14-15 near the storm’s eye. State media reported on Thursday that in Hue province, over 320 houses had been demolished or unroofed by the storm. In the central province of Quang Tri, some river banks were broken, causing flooding on a large area with at least 70,000 houses were submerged completely until their roofs. In Kontum, 24 people died in landslides when their houses collapsed after being rattled by the storm. Some also died by drowning in floodwaters, state television reported.

In addition, more than 73,466 hectares of crops were inundated and presumed lost. 356,790 people have been evacuated.

Catholic churches and monasteries in central Vietnam have opened their doors wide  to offer refuge for storm and flood victims. Thanh Duc parish in Danang, located right at Han River’s gate, has allowed local people to take refuge inside its catechism classes. Every day, parishioners cook and supply food for those who were forced to evacuate for the storm.

In spite of such a grave disaster,  the Vietnamese authorities  are still mobilizing  great resources for religious oppression. In a press release published on Wednesday night  representatives of the Bat Nha Buddhist Monastery condemned Vietnamese police for the on-going harassment against their monks and nuns while praising Catholics for their support.

After being forced out of their monastery on Sunday by police and an angry mob, they sought refuge at Phuoc Hue Temple in Bao Loc. Uniformed police have blockaded  the places where the 376 monks have taken sanctuary.

Far in the North at Vinh diocese, on Sunday local authorities of Quang Binh province sent bulldozers to Bau Sen Parish to knock down a large statue of Our Lady of La Vang erected on the top of a mountain inside the parish cemetery, after parishioners had refused to remove the statue.

Heavy rain over several days flooded the cemetery and prevented the demolition. While many local Catholics and non-Catholics alike believe it is a miracle, local authorities still vow to knock down the statue when the weather improves.

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