Southeast Asia is experiencing a bout of unexpected weather at the moment which is entirely uncommon at this time of year. From Cambodia experiencing rain and significantly cooler weather, to Hue and Hoi An in Vietnam who are seeing both heavy rains and flooding, this strange weather phenomenon is taking its toll on what should be a warmer and dryer season for both countries.
2016 has seen a series of strange weather occurrences in the region. The year began with the longest drought in decades spreading from Thailand to Myanmar and through Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos which destroyed crops and resulted in lower than anticipated rice exports for the year. April, 2016 was recorded as the hottest April ever, setting new temperature records for a number of countries in the region. This weather extreme has been followed by another strange occurrence later in the year with the end of the rainy season, typically occurring in early November, continuing throughout December bringing with it much cooler temperatures leading into the region’s high season for tourism.
This week we have experienced extreme flash flooding in Central Vietnam with sudden discharges from hydropower reservoirs due to excessive rains in order to avoid long term damage to hydropower stations in the area. The rains continue in the region and we are seeing weather warnings not only for flash flooding in low lying areas of Central Vietnam, but landslides in the mountains and riverbeds breaking. With these extreme weather warnings come safety warnings for local residents who are likely to be affected by the floods. In many Western countries, the main safety issues are concerned with hygiene and property damage in areas affected by flood waters, but in Vietnam these safety concerns are extended to the majority of the population who are unable to swim.
Recent statistics tell us that 16 people drown every day in Vietnam, half of which are children, a figure which has shown a positive decline in the last 5 years. This is a well-recognized problem in Vietnam and the reason that we have chosen to work closely with local NGO, Swim Vietnam, to tackle the issue. To date, Swim Vietnam has taught over 9,500 children to swim in Vietnam and are adding approximately another 5,000 children to this list every year. Looking sustainably at the project, in addition to children taught to swim, the organization has now educated 150 Vietnamese people as swimming teachers to widen the reach of swimming education. Water safety is the central point of focus for this incredible organization who also provide water safety training to 10-20,000 students per year in classrooms around the country.
As the flood waters from the most recent weather event begin to subside, we at Journeys Within like to keep our focus on the long term and working on ways that we can, together with our guests, affect a positive change in the countries we visit. For more information on Swim Vietnam you can visit their website at www.swimvietnam.com. If you would like to include a visit with this highly commendable organization during your next trip to Vietnam, speak with one of our Tour Consultants on the ways you can work with us to give back to this and other wonderful organizations like this during your vacation.