Minister calls for strengthening disaster response hinh anh 1Hundreds of houses and several hectares of vegetable and rice crops in the northern mountainous provinces of Son La were reportedly damaged by heavy rain, hail and thunderstorms April 12 (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNS/VNA) - Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong wants countrywide improvements in developing plans to respond to natural disasters.

Cuong, who is head of the Central Steering Committee on Natural Disaster Prevention and Control, said natural disasters have become extreme since the beginning of this year, causing losses for many regions. Drought has occurred across the country and saline intrusion has been at an unprecedented level in the Mekong Delta.

Heavy rain, together with thunderstorms and hail, have occurred more often in northern mountainous regions, the Red River Delta and the Central Highlands, seriously damaging rice and vegetable crops.

For example, downpours from April 12-14 in the central coastal provinces have destroyed 19,500ha of rice.

The minister said in the remaining months of 2020, the climate situation is likely to be unpredictable.

According to the National Centre for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting, this year's stormy season on the East Sea will begin later than previous years, with about 13 tropical storms and depressions expected. Of these, up to six are to make landfall on the mainland. Heavy rainfall and floods might occur after prolonged drought recorded in 2006, 2010 and 2016.

Cuong asked agencies and disaster prevention and control sub-committees in localities to make preparations for disaster response, including measures to ensure residents’ safety, protect dykes, dams, and reservoirs. 

It is necessary to improve capacity, strengthen facilities and equipment for all forces.

They are required to be always ready and promptly handle situations that may occur in response to natural disasters in the most effective way.

Localities should take the initiative in carrying out plans to secure safety for local residents in areas prone to landslides and flash floods, he said.

Cuong asked localities to keep a close watch on the operation of reservoirs as well as irrigation systems, especially those at high risk.

It is essential to step up communications and heighten the responsibility of the community for disaster and incident response while enhancing preventive measures to minimise tragic losses. 

The minister said a national conference would be held to review disaster prevention and control in 2019, the first months of this year and set tasks for the remaining months of 2020.

Preparations for the meeting were underway, however, he said the date for the meeting had not yet been decided due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A report from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development showed that Vietnam suffered fewer storms in 2019 than in the previous year and losses also fell to a record low.

Natural disasters, mainly flooding, tropical storms and landslides, left 133 people dead or missing last year, a decrease of 40 per cent compared with 2018’s figure.

Only eight tropical storms and four tropical depressions hit the country last year, compared with 13 storms and depressions in the previous year, leaving 181 dead and 31 missing.

The damage is estimated at around 7 trillion VND (297.6 million USD), a third of 2018’s figure of 20 trillion VND (850.3 million USD)./.