Fires in Viet Nam

 Fires in Viet Nam

19 April 2002

On 18 April 2002 the government of Viet Nam invited a forest fire expert for a situation assessment on site. The expertwill arrive on Saturday 20 April 2002. This mission has been coordinated between the Forest Department, the German Agencyfor Technical Cooperation (GTZ) in Viet Nam and Indonesia, UN-OCHA and UNDP Viet Nam, and the GFMC.
A new situation report will be issued in the next update.

Latest news from VietnamNews19 April 2002:

Army, police join forces to save U Minh virgin forest
CA MAU — More than 1,250 soldiers and policemen under the command of threegenerals are working flat out to prevent the fire in the Ca Mau Province’s U Minh HaForest from spreading to nearby virgin bushland.
The blaze, which broke out on Friday, has ravaged about 3,000ha of cajeput in U MinhHa and is threatening the Vo Doi virgin forest only 3km away.
Leading the battle are Lieutenant-General Do Trung Duong, deputy chief of staff of theViet Nam People’s Army; Lieutenant-General Huynh Tien Phong, region commander ofMilitary Zone 9; and Major-General Truong Huu Quoc, director general of the PoliceDepartment.
General Phong said around 1,000 soldiers had been sent to Ca Mau to clear pathwaysand build roads to combat the fire.
More than 250 firemen from the Public Security Ministry, 10 fire engines and 60 pumpswere sent to the site, according to Colonel Bui Van Ngan, general director of the Public Security Ministry’s Fire Prevention and Combat Department.
Twenty provinces in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta and the south of Viet Nam havesupported the fire-fighting effort.
Meanwhile, a torrential downpour between 3:45pm and 6:30pm on Wednesdayafternoon extinguished most of the fire that had already ravaged 2,460ha of U MinhThuong National Park in Kien Giang Province.
The rain also provided protective moisture for the 1,000ha of virgin forest in U MinhThuong National Park.
Despite the rain, authorities repeated their warning that the fire may yet spread to otherparts of U Minh Thuong National Park.
U Minh Forest, a special swamp in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta, is habitat to hundredsof precious fauna and flora species. The section of U Minh Forest in the Kien GiangProvince is U Minh Thuong and the other section in Ca Mau is U Minh Ha.
In 1975, U Minh Thuong forest covered 20,000ha, all primeval forest. Only 15 years later,forest fire and deforestation had destroyed 16,000ha and U Minh Thuong contained amere 4,000ha of virgin forest.
In 1993, Kien Giang Province mapped out 8,053ha and designated the land as protectedforest. The move helped save the U Minh Thuong Forest.
At present U Minh Thuong National Park covers 5,593ha, including 1,000ha of virginforest.
In 1975, U Minh Ha covered 90,000ha of virgin forests but a fire in 1983 burnt most ofthese forests to ash.
Only 800ha of virgin forest in U Minh Ha survived the fires in 1994 and 1998, andbecame part of the Vo Doi Protected Forest.
Two fires have been reported in U Minh Ha since the beginning of the dry season of2002.
The first fire in mid-March destroyed some 300ha of forest and the second, which brokeout on April 10 at U Minh Farm No. 3, destroyed more than 3,000ha of U Minh Ha Forest
Source: VNS

LatestSatellite Image

Forestfires and land-use fires in Viet Nam, including the fire disaster zone in U MinhThuong National Park, acquired by the Moderate-resolution ImagingSpectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor on 18 April 2002.

Fires can be seenin southern  Viet Nam
Imagesearch support at:

OperationalSignificant Event Imagery (OSEI)
The following significant events were identified by Satellite Analysis Branchmeteorologists and reviewed by the OSEI support team of the National Oceanic andAtmospheric Administration (NOAA):

click to enlarge (335 KB)

NESDIS/OSEI NOAA-14 POES AVHRR LAC satellite images,
Heat signatures (red) and smoke (light blue haze) are visible in this MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) image from fires burning in Vietnam. CNN
reported that more than 4,000 soldiers and firefighters have been battling two wildfires in southern Vietnam. Smoke (indicated by the yellow arrow) is visible blowing over the
Gulf of Thailand.(18 April 2002)
(Source: OSEI/NOAA)

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Precipitationforecast for Viet Nam for 20 April 2002, 07:00 local time.
(Source: ECPC Fire Weather Index Forecast)

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Precipitationforecast for Viet Nam for 20-27 April 2002
(Source: ECPC Fire Weather Index Forecast)

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(FireWeather Index (FWI) forecast for Viet Nam for 20 April 2002, 19:00 local time.
(Source: ECPC Fire Weather Index Forecast)

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FireWeather Index (FWI) forecast for Viet Nam for 20-27 April 2002.
(Source: ECPC Fire Weather Index Forecast)

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FireWeather Index (FWI) forecast for Viet Nam for 30 March to 27 April 2002.
(Source: ECPC Fire Weather Index Forecast)

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 Duffmoisture content (typical for peat-swamp layers) provided
by the ASEAN FireWeather Information System (Source: ASFWIS)

Somevisual impressions from the fire sites:


Inferno:Fire blaze in U Minh Thuong National Park. Source:VNS Photo Hoang Tri Dung


Damagecontrol: A canal is dug in an attempt to curb the spread of a wildfire that isdevastating the U Minh Thuong National Park. Source: VNA/VNS Photo by TrangDuong

For thea local situation assessment published by Viet Nam News: See the story “Allhands on deck as forest fire rages on” (6 April 2002):

For alocal weather forecast predicting the continuation of the dry spell, see:

ForGFMC reports on fires in Viet Nam see:

Seephotographs that includes effects of fire in Melaleuca forests of Vietnam:
GFMCPhoto Archive Viet Nam

 FirstReport by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

Ref:OCHA/GVA 2002/0081
OCHASituation Report No. 1
Vietnam- Forest Fire
9April 2002

Thisreport is based on information provided by the UNDP Office in Vietnam, theDisaster Management Unit and media reports.

 Eventand Impact

1.A forest fire, that started on 23 March in the 8,000‑hectare U Minh ThuongNational Park in the southern province of Ca Mau, is now raging out of controland threatens to destroy thousands of hectares of forest.Temperaturesin the heart of the forest have soared to 50 degrees Celsius and reachedthousands of degrees in the 0.5 to 1.5 metre‑thick smouldering peat andcoal layers. The combined high temperatures and strong winds have occasionallyproduced large fireballs, endangering the remaining forest and hampering effortsto extinguish the fire. A prolonged drought has severely limited theavailability of fresh water, which is hindering fire‑fighting efforts. UMinh Thuong Forest is ranked as the world’s second richest and largest mangroveforest after the Amazon rain forest in Brasil.
2.The fire is believed to have destroyed over 4,000 hectares of virgin forest.This will affect the lives of thousands of poor families living in the area, andwill also have significant ecological impacts, including loss of biodiversityand habitat to local species.


3.Thousands of policemen, military, forest rangers and local residents have joinedforces to combat the fire. Fire fighters have isolated approximately 5,000hectares of virgin and newly planted forest by digging a 6 metre wide, 3metre deep and 10 metre long canal, along which more than 100 pumpsare running 24 hours a day to provide water for the fire fighting effort. A 10metre‑wide fire prevention belt is being cleared. So far, digging ditchesaround the burning areas has been the only way to halt the spread of the fire.
4.The police and armed forces were mobilised on Tuesday, 2 April to assist thefire fighters, and military units are said to be at the forefront of the effort.
5.The provincial authorities have mobilised all tractors and pumps owned byresidents in neighbouring areas.


6.No request for international assistance has been received by OCHA to date.
7.OCHA is in close contact with the office of the United Nations ResidentCoordinator in Hanoi and will revert with further information.
8.This situation report, together with further information on ongoing emergencies,is also available on the OCHA Internet Website at

Lastreport by the Environment News Service

(forphotographs: see

FieryInferno Engulfs Vietnamese National Park

Hanoi,9 April 2002 – Thousands of policemen, military personnel, forest rangers andlocal residents have joined forces to fight a fire eating its way through U MinhThuong National Park in the southernmost province of Kien Giang.
Theforest fire, which officials say started on March 23, has been raging out ofcontrol. A report of Vietnam’s official news agency VNA today says firefightershave contained the blaze but not before it destroyed an estimated 4,200 hectaresof peat swamp forest, wiping out about half the national park.
Temperaturesin the fire’s core area have hit 50 degrees Celsius and reached thousands ofdegrees in the deep layers of burning peat and coal beneath the forest floor.
Combinedsoaring temperatures and strong winds have occasionally produced largefireballs, endangering the remaining forest and hampering efforts to extinguishthe fire.
Thesmoke is rising from the U Minh Thuong blaze to join the smoke from many firesthat currently dot the landscape across much of Southeast Asia, filling theskies with a thick blanket of smoke over much of the region.
Thisis normally the dry season, and in addition, a drought that has lasted since theEl Nino weather pattern of 1998 has limited the availability of fresh water,making firefighting a tough job.
Sofar, digging ditches around the burning areas has been the only way to halt thespread of the fire.
Firefightershave isolated about 5,000 hectares  ofvirgin and newly planted forest by digging a six metre wide, three metre deepand 10 metre long canal, along which more than 100 pumps are running day andnight to provide water for the fire fighting effort. The provincial authoritieshave mobilized all tractors and pumps owned by residents in neighbouring areasto draw water from existing canals criss-crossing the area.
Thenational park is part of a large area of seasonally flooded Melaleuca swampforest north and west of Ca Mau town near the shores of the Gulf of Thailand.The peat swamp forests of U Minh comprise a mosaic of forest fragments separatedby rice fields, settlements and canals. The northernmost forest fragment is UMinh Thuong which normally floods during the rainy season and dries out in thedry season
Dr.Julian Thompson, lecturer in physical geography at the University College Londonwho did research in U Minh Thuong in 2001, says the inner forest or StrictlyProtected Zone of about 8,130 hectares “has been impacted by humanactivities such as canal construction and logging in addition to frequent fires.The impact of these factors has been the erosion of much of the peat layeraround the forest margins.”
Describingthe area for the World Conservation Union, Le Dien Duc wrote, “In the past,this region was famous for its dense Melaleuca forests. However, during the waryears the region suffered serious damage from bombing and the extensive use ofnapalm and toxic chemicals, and since then, large areas have been cleared fortimber and agricultural land or destroyed by forest fires. Only some 63,000hectares of forest remain, and much of this, such as the U Minh Thuong forest,is in very poor condition.”

Thecause of the current fire is unknown. Officials say an investigation will takeplace after the fire is out.

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