By Sister Chan Khong in January 2000
November 10, 1999 After receiving the $20,000 U.S. (120,000 FF), the Root Temple and related temples were able to send many monks and nuns to help the flood victims. The situation has become more difficult each day. They leave the temples at 5:00 a.m. and return at midnight. The next morning at 5:00, they set out again.
On November 2, the water rose very high in the city region. The monks rescued one family on Dien Bien Phu Street. As the water rose even higher, they heard people calling for rescue from another house. The water was flowing so fast, the current so strong, that no one dared approach to help. Dharma teachers and monks finally swam to the house and removed the roof, rescuing seven people inside.
During the night of November 2 and the morning of November 3, all electricity and water were cut off in Hue. The monks knew there was absolutely no food in many places, so they dug up and cooked the manioc roots in the temple. At 5:00 a.m., the monks cut down the banana trees to make rafts and carry the cooked manioc to the flood victims. Other monks stayed behind, and with the nuns from Dieu Nghiem Temple, cooked rice and made it into small packages to distribute.
The monks divided into five groups. Group one went to the upper part of the Bo River at Phong Son village; group two went to the upper source of the Huong River at Huong Tho village; group three brought food and water to the hospital, the mental hospital, and the tuberculosis camp; group four took food to the University area where hundreds of students were trapped on the upper floors of buildings with no food or water; and group five successfully searched for motor boats so help might reach the remote areas such as Tay Linh, Quy Lai, Thuan Hoa, Tay Loc, Cii Chanh, Nam H6a, and Bai Dau. From November third through the sixth, using banana rafts and two motorboats, 70 monks and 18 members of the Youth for Social Service continued to offer help from the mountains to the sea—in Thua Thien, Van Cu, Co Lao, Huong Tra, Thuy Bang, An Xuan.
From November sixth to the tenth, as flood waters began to withdraw, monks from Tu Hieu Temple were able to rent trucks to carry people, food, and blankets. To bring help, they drove on rough and dangerous roads. In some places in Thua Thien province, the floodwaters had not yet withdrawn enough to drive on the roads. The monks drove only five miles toward the villages in this area, before the roads were cut off by flooding. They moved the supplies onto ferryboats, but after an hour's travel, the water became too shallow for the boats to continue. Carrying 50 kilo bags of rice and other supplies strapped to their shoulders, the monks continued on foot. They had to carry these heavy loads three, five, or even seven kilometers to reach certain areas.
The monks had hoped to provide relief for 200 families. Each was to receive 15 packages of instant noodles and ten kilos of rice. But when they arrived, they saw thousands of families starving. Considering the urgency of the situation, the monks thought they could give each family seven packages of instant noodles and one kilo of rice, but when they counted all the families, they realized they did not have nearly enough. Sharing equally with everyone, they were able to give only three packages of instant noodles and one-fourth of a pound of rice for each family. Although the monks were only able to give so little, they gave their hearts, love, care, and energy, and that moved people so much.
The monks worked very hard to help. In many places, they had to swim across the waters, wearing only T-shirts and shorts. The people recognized them as monks only because of their shaved heads. The monks were hungry too, and often unable to carry their heavy loads. But they tried to do their best to help.
In some places, such as An Xuan and Quang Dien, the floodwater has begun to withdraw slowly. Bloated corpses—human and animal—float everywhere and the stench is nauseating. Despite the terrible risk of disease, people are unable to bury the corpses, because the available ground is flooded. If you are able to support these desperate efforts to help thousands of people, please send your donation as soon as possible.
With deep gratitude and appreciation for your tremendous work. May all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas protect and support us all. Homage to Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion.
Sister Chan Khong compiled this article from various reports received from the monks and nuns in Vietnam.
News from the Flooded Provinces
QUANG NGAI PROVINCE: This area has not been affected as badly as others, but avalanches on the mountain road from Son Ha to Son Tay buried sixty people. Five were rescued. As the rain kept falling, huge rocks swept down in avalanches and landslides. Around 7,000 houses are underwater and many fishermen drowned.
QUANG TRI PROVINCE: Dong Hoa train station is completely underwater. Five hundred buses are stuck at the north end of Quang Tri bridge. At least 60,000 houses have collapsed. Hundreds of thousands of flood victims sit on their roofs, waiting to be rescued. Thousands of them have been soaking in the water for four days and are hungry, exhausted, thirsty, and cold. Some are near death; many people have died. All nine counties of the province are flooded. Thanks to your generosity during Thay's last trip to the United States, we were able to send $10,000 to the Brothers and Sisters working in the Understanding and Love Programs at Quang Tri sponsored by Plum Village.
HUE CITY & THUA THIEN PROVINCE: The worst counties affected by the flood are Quang Dien, Phong Dien, Huong Tra, Phu Vang and Phu Loc and all villages along the Perfume (Huong) River and Bo River. As of November 5, 1999, tens of thousands of families in these areas have not been able to connect with the outside world. More than 100,000 families still sit on their roofs, waiting for help.
DA NANG CITY & QUANG NAM PROVINCE: As of November 3, all roads were still underwater. The Da Bac Bridge has been carried away by the waters. Large rocks have fallen along the mountain pass of Hai Van making it impassable from Da Nang city to Thua Thien province. The water has risen one meter in the lowest parts of the Plateau Ngu Hanh Son, and seven meters in the districts Hoa Vang, Tam Ky, Dien Ban, Thanh Binh, Tuyen Phuoc, Dai Loc, Duy Xuyen and Que Son. The villages near the ocean in Nui Thanh district are also five to six meters underwater- Four-hundred-thousand victims are still sitting on their roofs waiting for help. On November 5, our team of social workers from the Tam Chanh group and Buddhist Youth Minh Tan came back from a rescue trip to bring 300 parcels of food to help relieve 300 families in Dai Loc district where waters are still immense and stormy. They were wondering how they could survive such a perilous trip—with the helping hands of Avalokita. In Hoa Van district, the water is seven meters high, and 24,400 houses have been completely covered with water. All the rice storage houses of the province have been washed away, and thousands of heads of livestock drowned.
QUANG BINH PROVINCE: More than 30,000 houses are underwater. The ferryboats have stopped working. In Le Thuy County, 24 of 27 villages are under the waters, with 18,300 houses immersed.
Since November 6, we have sent a total of $185,765 to help the victims of the flooding. But with so many people in need, even this seemingly large amount is very little in the desert of suffering. On November 16, the monks were able to give a handful of rice and three packages of instant noodles to each family. On November 27, each family received sixteen kilograms of rice and around $4.00 U.S. The government could only afford to offer each family one package of instant noodles, and this only once, eight days after the flood. But even with these combined efforts, each family is in great need of our help. The price of food has risen dramatically. The price of rice increased from 20 cents per kilo to 30 cents per kilo; instant noodles went from seven cents per package to ten cents per package.
With just $10 U.S. you can help take care of a family for one month: • $1 buys fifteen packages of instant noodles • $6 buys 20 kilos of rice • $3 buys a blanket
We will send your donations to Hue, Da Nang, or Quang Tri within two days of receipt. All donations are tax-deductible.