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Lack of professionalism hampers Vietnam's rescue capacity

Vietnam's disaster rescue capacity is rather poor, Nguyen Son Ha, former chief of the National Committee for Search and Rescue said in an interview with Thanh Nien.


One of the shortcomings, according to Ha, is a shortage of specialized equipment.


Vietnam only has four rescue helicopters with a range of 150 kilometers. As a result, the country is incapable of providing aerial response to disasters at sea.


What's more, the helicopters cannot fly out in bad weather. 


Rescue boats are similarly inadquate, he said. The country's most advanced boat, Sa41, is only able to stand the 6th degree [out of nine degrees] of waves.


"Therefore, when typhoons cause accidents at sea, we don't have the resources to make timely rescues," Ha said, citing that hundreds of fishermen died at sea when the super typhoon Chanchu hit Vietnam in 2006.


Due to a dearth of advanced equipment, local rescuers responded late to landslides and floods in the northern and central regions as well, he added.


The lack of major rescue forces is another big problem.


At the moment Vietnam has only three centers dedicated to sea rescue, three centers for oil spill mititgation and a few agencies responsible for mining accidents. The rest, meanwhile, deal with a wide range of emergencies, he said.


The specialized forces are newly established, Ha said, so their expertise is still limited. Meanwhile, the quality of the general assignment crews isn't very good, according to the official.


He alleged that while the scope of their training is broad, it isn't very substantive.


"Our want to mobilize local populations ["¦] to deal with natural disasters; however, now there are many disasters and accidents that can't be dealt with many people, but require professional forces."


Ha also pointed out shortcomings in localities' ability to deal with disasters, including local people's lack of preparations for storms and floods.


On the other hand, he stressed that the government has made plans to strengthen the country's rescue capacity by investmenting in new equipment.


According to Ha the country plans to purchase two advanced helicopters from France and build 19 rescue boats locally.


The country is also looking into establishing search and rescue centers at various islands like Phu Quoc and Con Dao and Truong Sa Archipelago.


Still, Ha was concerned that even after the proposed purchases, Vietnam will have a hard time effecively dealing with tsunamis or hurricanes in the immediate future.