A close call
Good morning! Welcome to the latest free-to-read edition of the Vietnam Weekly. Apologies for the late arrival - I had a flight to Hanoi yesterday afternoon and was busy catching up with a friend last night.
On Wednesday, I published an article about the economy for paying subscribers. You can upgrade to a paid subscription to receive future exclusive articles and access the archive for US$5/month or US$50/year. On a programming note, I’ll take next week off from the newsletter.
I actually posted that story a day too early, as Q3 GDP data was released yesterday: an eye-catching 13.7% growth over Q3 2021. This is a huge number, though it’s important to remember that a year ago, southern Vietnam was exiting a brutal three-month lockdown in response to a severe Delta outbreak that wreaked havoc on the region. Still, double-digit growth in a quarter when much of the world is struggling is worth celebrating.
On to the news.
At 1am Wednesday, powerful Typhoon Noru made landfall in central Vietnam, directly impacting Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, Thua Thien-Hue, Quang Tri, and Da Nang.
Thousands of houses were damaged, cropland was destroyed, and several thousand livestock were killed.
As of Wednesday evening, 57 people had been reported injured due to the storm, though no fatalities had been recorded at that time. Hoi An experienced major flooding, though people there are used to that given its riverside location.
The government was very proactive in preparing for Noru, calling in fishing ships early in the week, setting up evacuation shelters, mobilizing military units for rescue operations, and - in places like Da Nang - banning people from going outside from Tuesday evening through Wednesday.
Ten airports, from Da Lat up to Dong Hoi, were also shut down.
As is often the case with typhoons, however, the worst came after Noru had moved into the mountains, where heavy rain caused severe flooding.
As of yesterday, areas of Nghe An were still badly flooded, and the death toll from the storm could still rise - many communities in the rugged mountains were cut off by landslides or washed-away bridges.
Both National Highway 1 and the Ho Chi Minh Highway, the two primary north-south roads, were cut off by floodwaters at various points.
While any loss of life and property damage is upsetting, it does appear that Noru’s impact wasn’t as bad as expected. Before the storm made landfall, some forecasting models had it slamming into Vietnam as possibly the strongest typhoon in the country’s history. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case, though it still packed a powerful punch, as you can see on the below radar image.
The long-term concern, of course, is that climate change will make this more common. Noru underwent explosive strengthening on the east side of the Philippines, transforming from a tropical storm to a super typhoon in about 12 hours - something we’ve seen a lot of Atlantic hurricanes do - and warm waters in the East Sea allowed it to carry a lot of strength into Vietnam.
Tan Son Nhat’s Frozen Terminal
Back in July, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh visited Ho Chi Minh City and ordered involved agencies to begin construction of Tan Son Nhat’s long-overdue third terminal by the end of Q3.
That is today, and I can assure you that no such construction has begun.
The Ministry of Transport said recently that work will begin in Q4, though no precise start date has been given. There’s a major reason for the delay: the Ministry of Defense still hasn’t handed over nearly 28 hectares of land that it holds where the terminal will be built.
This sort of inter-governmental bureaucracy is common and extremely frustrating: TSN’s domestic terminal absolutely sucks - there’s no other way to put it - and every further delay just adds more years of misery for passengers.
Meanwhile, the 12 war-era concrete revetments are still in place and restricting flight operations, despite reporting in July that a plan to remove them was underway.
Repatriation Scandal Update
I covered the anti-corruption campaign last week, but there have been two more prominent developments in the repatriation flight scandal since then.
Earlier this week, To Anh Dung, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Nguyen Quang Linh, assistant to Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh, were expelled from the Communist Party of Vietnam for accepting bribes.
Dung was arrested in April, so I’m not sure why he hadn’t already been kicked out of the party, and Linh was arrested on Tuesday. Expulsion from the CPV generally clears the way for an official to be detained.
Pham Binh Minh, who Linh worked for, was Minister of Foreign Affairs during this scandal, and one would have to think his days may be numbered.
Mekong farmers struggle as fertilizer prices rise (Mekong Eye)
Have a great weekend!