153. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1

471. Vietnamese have given guarded publicity to flood damage now occurring on lower reaches of Mekong. In response to inquiries of Economic Counsellor, Vice President Tho had following to say, with proviso that for variety of reasons GVN did not wish publicize extent of flood losses at this time. They appear catastrophic.

Vice President said that in provinces of Kien Tuong, Kien Phong and part of An Giang, 200,000 people are now homeless. All of Kien Tuong, comprising 43,000 cultivated hectares, has been “destroyed” by the incursion of two to three meters of water. In Kien Phong, 50 percent of cultivated area of 166,000 hectares has been lost, and in southern section of An Giang, 30 percent of cultivated area of 302,000 hectares has been destroyed. Road to Rach Gia from Long Xuyen is now acting as a dam and preventing flooding south of that line, but just north of road settlement of Caisan one has probably been completely destroyed. A quarrel is now going on between those living north and south of roadway, as those north of road wish it breached in order to relieve flooding in their areas. This would not be a wise move according to Vice President. While flood now appears to be receding Vietnamese authorities fear lunar tides occurring [Page 336] about Oct. 26, as high tide from sea will then prevent recession of flood waters for a few days. Losses include 300,000 tons of rice; indeterminate quantity of animals, 50 people drowned; housing, possessions and clothing of 200,000 people. Relief goods, including clothing, medicine and the like will obviously be needed on most urgent basis, and we will attempt to prepare requirements as soon as possible, do what we can to help while means at hand, and keep Washington fully informed.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 851K.49/10-1161. Confidential; Priority. Repeated to CINCPAC for PolAd, Phnom Penh, and Bangkok. Received at 10:03 a.m.