Life Life

13/10/2020 - 08:34

Ploughing through the waves and reaching out to sea

Storm No. 5 has left a long lasting imprint on their minds. The storm lasted for only about 1 hour, but it had frightened them and made them realize many things. I am talking about the villagers of the seaside village nestled by the waves...

Phu Vang fishermen set sail after storm No. 5

1. The place where I stood, just a few hours after the storm had passed, was sunny again. The village by the sea was clearly shattered. It has been a long time since the coastal residents have witnessed the anger of Mother Nature.

Before the storm landed, on the roads, the workers went to work, people went to market, and shrimp farm owners were still carrying out their daily routine. However, the natural disaster that came earlier than forecasted made these people afraid. Many people escaped death in the blink of an eye.

The story Mr. Ho Duy Hoan tells (village 11, Dien Hoa commune, Phong Dien district) of hiding in a shrimp farm shows that nature is "playing around" terribly.

 “While I was downing my raft to feed the shrimp, a strong wind came and knocked me into the water. My shrimp watch tent is about 70m2 wide covered with iron roof, only about 4m2 is made of cement. The wind was so strong, that dozens of sheets of iron were unroofed and flew wildly. I wore a helmet hiding in that 4 square meter space, and dared not look out. My wife and children at home also went to seek sturdier shelter at the neighbor’s house. If the storm had lasted longer, I wouldn’t know what would have happened…,” Mr. Hoan said.

In his 40 years of living in that sandy coastal area, it was the first time Mr. Hoan saw the horrors of natural disasters from the sea. Not only Hoan but also the people of this land are not afraid of storms.

This is because the houses have been built stronger, withstanding big storms and small storms. Before, people would sit in their houses to watch the wind and rain.

A house in Dien Hoa commune (Phong Dien district) damaged by storm No. 5

But now, having experienced storm No. 5, many people are scared. Many acacia and aspen trees which acted as the wind block and sand barrier and which were as big as the column of the house were uprooted, cracked and fallen. The ocean waves roared continuously.

“I heard the forecast on the radio that the storm would come in late noon, so early in the morning, I still drove my wife to the market. We hadn’t got home when sudden heavy rain and wind made us fall on the road. Next to us, the melaleuca forests were swaying and falling. Fortunately, we returned safely in fear,”, said Mr. Nguyen Van Quy (Dien Hoa commune). But there were also people who were not as lucky as Mr. Quy!

Surfing Facebook quickly after the storm, there are many status lines of friends. In that cyberspace are countless images of destruction. My friend posted a status: "Among the mountains of obstacles that people have to overcome in their life, these moments, many families in Hue are struggling to climb their own mountains and repair their roof torn away by the storm No. 5. Many families have repaired their homes, but many are still living without a roof over their house…” 

When the storm came, people could evacuate, but the roofs, shrimp farms and other possessions of the coastal people could not. Things that have shaped their lives are now lost. The burden will be heavier on their shoulders. The people said that the storm No. 5 is a "special" storm that came quickly, went away quickly and carried away many things.

“After the storm, in this coastal area, if any house had their roof blown off, then it had been completely blown off. Now, everyone is rushing to buy tiles and corrugated iron to repair their houses. For several days, the power went out. The power from the generator was not enough and the shrimp began to die or weaken. If only we took actions, then there would have been less damage. Through the recent storm, not only me but also the people in the coastal village are more cautious in the stormy season,” said Mr. Hoan.

2. “That was strange”! That is the general mentality of many people after the storm, especially for the coastal people. The storm dissipated, the sea did not roar fiercely as it did. Memories of "picking up drift wood", "picking up rubbish" (collecting things that were washed away to the sea) after the storm were not repeated. Perhaps somewhere in Phu Loc, fishermen rushed to pick up the white sea cucumber washed ashore.

In the afternoon markets of Phong Hai (Phong Dien), Vinh Tu (Quang Cong, Quang Dien), Vinh Thanh (Phu Vang) ... the appearance of fresh fish meant that the bamboo boats had went out to sea after the storm. It is difficult to explain, but coastal people love to fish after the storm, because the water seemed to have provoked fish and shrimp, causing them to swim into the shallow waters.

Many old skills of fishermen reappeared on the beach. If pulling nets near the shore helped add more dishes to the meal table, the ocean’s gifts from the boat crossing the waves every afternoon will compensate for the roofs that the storm swept away. Not too much, but enough to help fishermen stay with the waves and their profession in a time of uncertainty and of the changing sea.

Tran Cong Toan, a fisherman, (Quang Ngan commune, Quang Dien district) told me that, it has been a long time since he took his boat out to sea. Not because of his love for the sea has dwindled over time, but the water itself has changed, making the rowing more tiring.

In our conversation, Mr. Toan did not talk about quantity after these sea trips, but he directed me to the business scene of small traders at the fish market every afternoon - "If they are still selling, it means our boats are still “ploughing” the waves," said Mr. Toan.

There are two jobs that I often think of every time I walk on the beach. They are the professions of catching the fish at sea and farming the white shrimp on the shore. Both of the professions belong to the fishermen. The fish is the gift of nature but the shrimp makes me think of the sand dunes that are cut along the coastline from Phong Dien, Quang Dien, Phu Vang to Phu Loc.

Mr. Tran Quang Thuan (Phong Hai commune) quit his fishing at sea to pursue shrimp farming. He said: "Not only humans destroy nature but nature also destroys nature". He meant the sea erosion. It may not be long until the sea will take over his shrimp farm which is close to the waves. Not only in the storm No.5 but the erosion had happened in previous storm seasons.

Now, in order to live with nature, man must find a way to adapt. For example, if we want the shrimp farm not to be threatened by the waves, people need to be more professional in investing in generators and in a wastewater treatment lake. Thus, ditches which attract sea erosion cannot form… However, the road to change still has many obstacles.

Story and photos: Quynh Vien

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