In late July 2015, the people of Quang Ninh witness the biggest rainfall in the last 40 years of the town’s history, with total rainfall of about 1,500mm received over the past nine days. Heavy rain has caused massive flooding and landslide in many mountainous area.
The disaster had killed 17 people and injured many others in the province, causing total damage of VND 2.7 trillion (US$123.8 million), according to the local People’s Committee. Heavy rains and floodwaters have destroyed or heavily damaged nearly 10,000 houses in the province, submerged and ruined some 4,000 hectares of rice and other crops, destroyed 1,200 hectares of aquaculture and swept away more than 2,000 cattle and poultry, according to statistics.
Quang Ninh province is recovering from the devastating disaster but for remote area like Ban Sen, it may take years to move on. Ban Sen is a mountainous commune in Van Don District, Quang Ninh Province. This is one of the poorest communes in 54 communes of Quang Ninh province. Being separated from mainland, transportation system here is inadequate with a weak and unsynchronized infrastructure system. Meanwhile, the life of the community is mainly self-sufficient so the residents here have to face many difficulties, they are lack of everything even the most basic need: food supplies.
Located on an island, Ban Sen is like a hollow at the foot of the mountain. There are 27 household lived here with 85 people. The flood swept through the valley, submerged the whole village, there are place nearly 20m deep. During the flood, the people here is only have time to go up to highland to avoid the flood. Only two hours after the flood came, the only thing could be seen is the rooftop of their house. All of their properties were swept away with the flood. After the rain has stopped, some people go back hoping to save what left of their properties. But they were left disappointed and heartbroken as all were lost: their houses are now in ruin, their cattle & their crops were gone with the flood.
To reach Ban Sen, we must pass Na Sa and Dong Danh village. The landslide has blocked the road to the village. It made the road disappeared completely, formed large stream of raging water. The worst rain in history did not only engulfed the entire village in sea water but washed away more 800 aquacultures of the people here. All concrete road of Ban Sen and Na Na village was completely destroyed, the electricity system was also severely damaged. The total loss of Ban Sen reached the number of 200 billion VND, of which Sen village – the destination of this year V’Spirit Go Green program, is the most damage area.
On August 18th 2015, V’Spirit Cruises organized a trip to Ban Sen in Van Don district of Quang Ninh in order to visit and present gifts to the families who are the victims of recent flood. This event with about 15 participants of V’Spirit Cruises is the one of the chain activities of V’Spirit to practice their responsibility to the community.
It takes a 5 hour bus ride to reach Cai Rong wharf. From there, the only way to reach Van Don is by motor boat. The sea was quiet and peaceful, the sky was clear and blue as the deep sea, who could have known of her rage just few weeks ago. After 30 minute, the boat reach Van Don island. Waiting for us at the port is Mr. Chung, a resident of Ban Sen. During the flood, he too was lost everything. Mr. Chung greeted us with a big smile, but we could still see a hint of sorrow in that warm smile. He told us that when people at local’s committee contact him about our charity program, he was so glad for the residents of Ban Sen as his village in located in a remote area of the island, normally they already have very little visitor. Now, after the flood, with the road destroyed, the chance is even smaller.
After a few minutes of resting, we continued on foot, followed the lead of Mr. Chung. On the road, Mr. Chung provided us with the present situation of Ban Sen. Our 2 hours walk seemed like getting shorter with his stories. We reached Ban Sen around noon. The village stands small and desolate at the foot of the mountain. Mr. Chung talked sadly: “ Before the flood, the village was poor but beautiful. Now the flood has stripped us with the only thing we got.”
First stop, we visited the home of Mrs. Nguyễn Thị Bích Thùy. As we reached the entrance, we could see the figure of a small woman was cleaning the house. Mrs. Thùy’s husband passed away 2 years ago, leaving her with 2 small children. Their daily life is already full of difficulties since the absence of a father figure in the family. When the flood came, she could only take her 2 children ran up the hill as the water swallowed her house. The flood has gone so had their belongings. We sat in her empty house now is only contained an old bed, a damaged wardrobe and an altar with the incense was still burning. Mrs. Thùy looked at her 2 children and said: “The water raised so fast, I could only hold my children and ran with the others. Thanks God, it was morning or else… The little one cried so hard as she wanted to return to get her father picture. I thought it was gone like everything else but I found it right after we returned here. Their father up there had blessed us.”. During our short visit at Mrs. Thùy’s house, some of our team helped her to put her belongings back in the house, but there isn’t much to carry. “I used to work at the aquaculture of a neighbor, now, all washed away, so I stay at home to take care the children. God knows what I will do for a living now”. We left Mrs. Thùy’s house with a deep impression in our heart, our gift may help her get pass these hard times but like she said what will she do to raise her kids now.
Our journey continued as we visited other families in Ban Sen. All with different stories but were in the same situation: lost. All that they got were taken, and now, their future was taken too as they don’t know how it will be while they have nothing to rebuild.
And the future of their kid was too getting a little bit rougher. Like other things, their school stuffs were washed away too but not their enthusiasm to learn and to return to school this September. We met Lan and her mother was drying out her books in front of the house. Lan lost her father last year. She said next year she will go to college so she can return and help the people here. So she has to study hard to make her dream come true. We hope that Lan and the children of Ban Sen can take one step closer to their dream with our little gift. And maybe this year Moon Festival, there are still many difficulties but may those lanterns will lift up their spirits.
The last stop of our journey is Mr. Nguyễn Văn Hòa’s house. Stepped into the house, all we could see is a large garden with dry, barren earth and dying trees. Mr. Chung said with regret: “This used to be an orange garden, now …” he could only finish his sentence with a sigh.
Greeted us from above was Mr. Hòa, he was fixing the rooftop, as a big hole is still visible after the flood. We look at the bed in one corner of the house, a boy was cleaned up by his mother – Mrs. Uyên. “That’s our youngest son. He got sick when he was little and we couldn’t take him to the hospital in time. The doctor said it is cerebral palsy. He has two older sisters. Both of them are studying in Hanoi.”. He said the last sentence with a hint of sadness. The life of the family was depended largely on the orange garden. If the family has a good crop, that year their life will be much easier and their daughters won’t have to worry and can focus more in their studies. Now the garden is just barren dirt. To regrow the garden will take years to harvest. During that time, what will provide the food for the family, the money for their daughter to continue their studies. “My daughters want to quit school to go find job when they heard the news, but I couldn’t let them do it. We worked hard our whole life to send them to school so they can have a better life.” – said Mrs. Uyên as she casted a sad look at her son who sat unworried at the door. V’Spirit presented gifts and clothing to Mr. Hòa’s family before parting him.
When we reach the port, it was getting dark. The lovely people of Ban Sen has borrowed a tuk-tuk to return us the port so the 2 hours walk was shortened. We said goodbye and our thanks to Mr. Chung. We end our trip to Ban Sen with a weight in our heart and wonder what will lie ahead for these families of Ban Sen.