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13/10/2021 - 08:52

Overcoming the "dual challenge" of natural disasters & pandemic

Coping with storms and landslides in the context of COVID-19 pandemic creates "new situations" in Natural Disaster Prevention and Control. The Provincial Functional Branches have developed and updated plans to ensure the safety of people in this current "key" period of storms and floods.

Mr. Phan Thanh Hung, Chief of Office of the Provincial Steering Committee for Disaster Prevention and Control

According to Mr. Phan Thanh Hung, Chief of the Office of the Provincial Steering Committee for Natural Disaster Prevention and Control and Search and Rescue, the National Center for Hydro-meteorological Forecasting expects that natural disasters will continue to develop complicatedly and unpredictably. From now till the end of the year, there will be about 7 to 9 storms and tropical depressions .

Among them, 3 to 4 storms are likely to directly hit our country's mainland, posing high risks of flash floods and landslides in mountainous areas, as well as extreme heavy rain in the Central Region, including Thua Thien Hue Province, in October, November and the first half of December.

The COVID-19 pandemic is developing complicatedly during the key period from now to the end of the year when storms, floods, and landslides peak. What are the Province’s plans to prevent and control storms and floods in the context of the pandemic, Sir?

In order to proactively prevent natural disasters, especially to avoid the risk of flash floods, landslides and prolonged heavy rains on a large scale amid complicated developments of COVID-19 pandemics in the area, the Provincial People's Committee has requested departments and agencies to carry out specific tasks.

Apart from the disaster response plans given annually, the Province also requires certain new tasks which are closely associated with the prevention and control of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the relocation of people in the context of the pandemic.

Accordingly, units such as the Provincial Military Command, the Provincial Border Guard Command, and the Provincial Police must prepare forces and equipment to support localities and organize search and rescue tasks when necessary, while at the same time ensuring the prevention and control of the pandemic and overcoming the consequences of natural disasters in direct concern with the developments of the pandemic in the locality.

The Department of Health is required to develop plans to ensure the safety of Field Treatment Facilities and Concentrated Isolation Areas in the event of natural disasters happening. Also, the Department needs to prepare means, equipment, and drugs to ensure the prevention and control of the pandemic for people in the concentrated isolation areas of localities and the Province.

Health centers and stations at district and commune levels are also required to prepare necessary medical supplies and medicines, including initial treatment for mild COVID-19 patients.

In the areas at high risk of mountain landslides in Phu Loc, it is necessary to relocate residents 4-5 times a year to ensure safety.

In some localities, especially coastal and high mountainous ones, there are considerable risks of being greatly affected when storms and floods occur. In case social distancing and blockade are implemented to prevent the pandemic, what are the conditions for the relocation of people?

On August 23th, the Central Steering Committee for Disaster Prevention and Control issued a manual on Natural Disaster Prevention Practices in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently, the Ministry of Health has also issued guidance on responding to the storm No. 5, which marks some points when deploying in localities.

For the Province, it is necessary to identify important, coastal and high mountainous areas, as well as areas at risk of landslides, especially in the context that the Directives 15 and 16 of the Prime Minister are being applied, so that solutions and projects to proactively respond to natural disasters, as well as appropriately evacuate and protect people can be prepared.

If it is imperative to evacuate people from dangerous areas (especially those affected by fluvial floods, flash floods, landslides, etc.), localities need to arrange places for the evacuation suitable to each subject and the situation of the pandemic at the localities, before submitting them to the Provincial People's Committee to direct the relevant forces to organize the implementation.

At the same time, it is necessary to organize SARS-CoV-2 screening tests for the population that needs to be evacuated, as well as rapid tests to separate suspected cases and F0’s before transporting them to the evacuation place (subjects with risk factors must be arranged in a separate area) under the direction of the local steering committee for the prevention and control of COVID-19 pandemic.

If necessary, localities can request police forces, militia and self-defense forces, soldiers, youth unions, etc., to support the evacuation of people from areas affected by rainstorms and floods .

What specific instructions did the Provincial Steering Committee for Disaster Prevention and Control and Prevention give to local authorities and people in the current situation of both responding to natural disasters and the pandemic?

Natural disasters occurring in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic have caused a "double challenge" in many localities. In that situation, the Provincial Steering Committee for Disaster Prevention and Control has issued a manual to guide Natural Disaster Prevention Practices in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic at all levels to localities; and the disaster prevention and control forces are required to prepare and make plans to be ready to give responses in a timely manner in case natural disasters occur.

The manual focuses on guiding localities to develop response plans and conduct disaster prevention practices in the context of the pandemic, as well as supplement the contents of the prevention and control of the pandemic in the implementation of the plans to respond to natural disasters.

Simultaneously, the manual also provides knowledge on how to prevent and control the pandemic to help the local Steering Committees for Disaster Prevention and Control, and the Disaster Prevention and Control forces to realize the importance of Natural Disaster Prevention Practices in the context of the pandemic.

Natural Disaster Prevention in the context of the pandemic is a new issue. So, what are the long-term solutions and suggestions from the sector and locality to avoid "double disaster"?

In order to proactively prevent and respond effectively to situations, right now, localities need to prepare plans, human resources, materials and logistics to respond to natural disasters. In particular, the most important issue is evacuating people, ensuring safety, avoiding infection at concentrated evacuation places, as well as equipping enough medical equipment and disinfectant chemicals.

The sector also proposes to strengthen information and communication through the use of communication applications of the Provincial Smart City Operation Center of to broadcast disaster warning bulletins so that localities and units can proactively prevent disasters and raise people's awareness in proactively preparing to respond to natural disasters occurring in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the same time, the sector uses the hotline for prevention and control of COVID-19 (19001075) to support the community in response to floods, as well as assists localities in making decisions to ban people from going out during storms or big floods, thereby minimizing damage caused by natural disasters.

Thank you very much, Sir!

By Ha Nguyen

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