As the Philippines reels from the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan, many in Vietnam are breathing a sigh of relief as the impact of the weakened storm is less than they had feared it might be.
With wind speeds estimated between 118-133 kilometers per hour, weakened Typhoon Haiyan made landfall on Vietnam’s northern coast at around 5:00 am Monday local time.
Reports said the tropical storm ripped off roofs, uprooted some trees and caused blackouts in some areas. No casualties have been reported since the storm hit, however officials have said that ten people died in the run-up to the storm, most of them killed by blown off roofs as they were attempting to secure their homes.
Boat trips were suspended in popular tourist destination Ha Long Bay, but were expected to resume Tuesday. A report on local news channel VTV said 800,000 people had been evacuated across northern and central provinces.
Michael Annear, Vietnam director for the Red Cross, praised the government for preparing people for the storm.
“The government [did] an excellent job in terms of early warning systems and monitoring storms such as this as well as evacuations. This is shown with the great number of lives that were saved and the reduction in the loss of lives from a number of years ago,” said Annear.
Although the initial destruction appears to be slight, experts say floods in the aftermath of the storm could take a considerable economic toll. The region is an important area for shrimp farming and tourism.
Annear said it is now up to the government to get aid out quickly to people who need it. Those most vulnerable to the storm are those living below or near the poverty line.
“With storms such as this, they get knocked back quite readily and it’s often a double impact, because they may have been able to service some loans to be able to help with their business or with their farm work… they are able to pay in normal times, but when they meet a storm they go back one or two steps,” said Annear.
Haiyan was originally thought to be headed for Vietnam’s central provinces; around 500,000 people were evacuated, mostly in Quang Nam province, on Saturday.
Caroline Mills, a British travel writer living on the coast near Hoi An, a UNESCO heritage site in the province, said on Saturday the army helped many move to government shelters, which were mostly schools.
Although the mood was calm, Mills said her neighbors were worried about the financial impact of the storm, as many were still reeling from the impact of Typhoon Wutip last month.
“Most of our neighbors live in quite basic houses, so quite a lot of them were badly damaged, they lost their roofs and things. Most of them had got them ready, just about watertight again although there were some still repairing,” said Mills.
As the course of the storm changed, residents in central Vietnam were allowed to go home.
Mills said many of her neighbors are fisherman and were not allowed to take their boats out over the weekend because of the storm, which added to their financial worries. However, as the skies clear and life gets back to normal, the predominant feeling is relief.