On the night of October 11, Le Trung Lam, a resident of the central town, braved the floods to go and pick up some migrant students who had been marooned in their inundated home for days. He took them to his company on Ngu Binh Street, An Tay Ward, where 30 people were already sheltering.
They cook in the kitchen and eat three meals a day, and also have blankets, mattresses and electricity.
Three days earlier, many students from other places now studying in Hue, had no idea where to shelter as the floodwaters rose relentlessly and inundated their homes. Then Lam’s message arrived out of the blue.
He said: “The company’s headquarters, a five-floor building, is situated on Ngu Binh Mountain, and so the water has not reached it yet. Its two top floors have 10 rooms each that can accommodate 20-30 people.”
Floods and landslides triggered by torrential downpours in central Vietnam for a week now have killed 29 as of Tuesday morning. Among the deaths, six are from Thua Thien-Hue Province, home to Hue.
The sheltering students eat lunch at the canteen at Lam’s company on October 12, 2020. Photo by Le Lam.
Lam, 33, decided to turn his company into a shelter on October 8 as the waters reached some major roads and were expected to rise further. Driving around the town to check on the flood situation and how people were coping, he passed by the studio apartment where he himself had lived 15 years ago as a migrant student from central Nghe An Province. He too had suffered during flooding.
Fearing for students who were possibly cut off, he posted an announcement that he was willing to shelter people.
In the last few days he has received hundreds of calls from people seeking help. Since the neighborhood still has access to electricity and the market remains open, Lam’s employees have been able to buy food and cook meals.
Lam said he would take care of the students until the floods receded.
If the water level keeps rising, he plans to also use the main hall which can hold 500 people.
Le Thi Anh Ngoc, 19, from the central Quang Binh Province, said she walked on flooded streets for more than an hour to reach Lam’s place on the morning of October 11.
“I arrived in Hue four days ago. I did not know who would help us before I learned about Lam.”
Loan (middle) gives banh mi to people distributing them to those in need in Hen Dune. Photo by Ngoc Loan.
Six kilometers away from the company, on Tung Thien Vuong Street, Ngo Thi Kim Loan is busy making 500 banh mi, the Vietnamese sandwich, with the help of a few others to send to people stranded on Hen Dune and Han Mac Tu Street.
Loan, who regularly does charity, always has instant noodles at home. Three days ago, seeing the rising water levels, she gave away 100 boxes of them to households in her neighborhood facing difficulties.
On October 12 she cooked 40 kilograms of rice for people living in areas where power has been turned off due to the floods.
The owner of a noodles restaurant also posted on her Facebook page that families with children or old people could command shelter at her home.
In the evening, when Loan sent 300 banh mi to households on Hen, Le Quoc Phong, Loan’s neighbor, 40, was eating dinner under an oil lamp. The island in the middle of the Huong River was cut off by the rising waters.
Phong volunteered to help distribute food to those in need. Finishing his meal, he quickly got on a boat to take the banh mi to people before dinner time was over.
Distributing food and offering accommodation are Hue people’s way of supporting people affected by the floods.
Dozens of families living in higher places said they are ready to take in people whose houses are flooded and provide instant noodles to those who need them.
Free food distribution centers have been set up in downtown areas in the last few days, but are accessible only to people living nearby because of the situation.
People are also helping their fellows facing a threat of losing their livelihoods.
Trung (in white helmet) and his friends catch dead fish in his farm to sell at lower prices. Photo by Dai Son.
Dai Son, deputy secretary of the La Khe Trem Village Youth Union in Huong Tra Town, saw tons of fishes farmed by locals dead or dying on October 11, quickly took photos of them and posted on social media with a call to people to come and help the farmers.
Within half a day 300 kilograms were bought, helping Le Trung, 41, a local farmer, cut his losses.