So we've gotten a little bit of rain recently. And by a little bit, I mean we've gotten enough to flood a significant part of the city on and off for 2 days, and the rain's not going to stop. My friend Aaron finally braved the water snakes (fact or fiction?) and floating nastiness to get some food yesterday, and took this photo:
(That's Aaron in the blue shirt). Cars apparently floated away from where they were parked, and actually several people have died - including 3 kids on their way to school. I don't know the details, but I guess they drowned. That's put a damper on what would otherwise have mostly been a fairly odd but mostly inconvenient situation.
The rain's not from a typhoon or anything dramatic - it's just a storm, and it's the kind of more extreme weather that's expected with climate change. Trust me, I'm beginning to see the advantages of living in a city that's ABOVE sea level for the next 50 years. Hanoi lies right along the Red River, and the name actually means "city along the river" or "city over the river." Someone told me that not only is much of the city below the surface of the river, but the parts are below the bottom of the river.
Needless to say, we've got dykes, and actually dykes have been in place for over a thousand years to protect Hanoi. Even in the major recent floods of 1971 and 1996, these haven't failed. They ostensibly protect the city for floods of up to 13.5 meters. Below is a powerpoint slide I stole, but it has a diagram of the dyke that is sort of visible, and some statistics.
Nonetheless, the water levels were the highest that have been since since 1984. Here are some snapshots of other floods in recent history. I was sad to say that so far no one has broken out the boats...
Thinking back to the Gvdv seminar, it's funny to now be living in a place that was just a red "hotspot" for future climate-induced humanitarian trouble. Looking around town, being here has shown me both how both ill prepared Hanoi would be for a flood that broke the dykes, and yet also how unfased people seemed by it. No one panicked, and some people lost furniture, but I think the fact that almost everyone has a 4 story house (because they build tall & narrow), meant that everyone sort of retreated up and waited it out. That's what we did, anyway. People in general seemed pretty resourceful and calm, yet at the same time the extent to which people didn't modify their behavior (like those people who kept driving even though they were up to their windshields in water) also didn't always meet with a successful outcome. It's kind of an odd dichotomy, where no one really treats it like it's a huge deal, but at the same time, by not breaking their routines they don't necessarily demonstrate the ability to adapt if something really drastic occurred... I don't know. I'm curious to know what would happen.
For another interesting look at the water, here's the field where I usually play touch rugby on Saturdays. It's out in "Ciputra", this luxury housing complex about 5 miles away (hence the lovely white villas). The place where the cameraman is standing is up on a small hill that's a solid 1 meter higher than the level of the playing field. This was emailed out to the rugby list to explain why the game was cancelled on Saturday, even though "rugby's more fun in the mud"...