Hanoi Communist Party boss apologizes for flood remarks

(DPA - VN News)

Hanoi (06 Nov. 2008) - The head of the Hanoi chapter of the Communist Party has apologized for controversial comments he made while visiting people in flooded areas on Sunday, a senior Hanoi Party official confirmed Thursday. On Sunday, Hanoi Party boss Pham Quang Nghi told a reporter from the news website VietnamNet that while out checking the situation on the ground, "I found that unlike in the old days, people rely a lot on the state. They just wait for the government to supply this, support that, they don't try their best to do it themselves."


Hanoi Party Boss Pham Quang Nghi (wearing a rain coat) visits the flood.
The comments sparked widespread controversy. On Thursday, Nghi's secretary Hoang Minh Dung Tien, confirmed his boss had apologized to VietnamNet.

VietnamNet quoted Nghi as offering his "sincere apologies to readers and to the people for my remarks, which have drawn criticism and made people angry."

Vietnamese bloggers and private citizens sharply criticized Nghi's remarks. "His comments were irresponsible and showed a lack of political sense," said Hanoi lawyer Cu Huy Ha Vu. "As the city's top leader, Nghi should have done his best to take care of his people."

Several Vietnamese bloggers said Nghi's remarks were an insult to the memory of the over 20 Hanoians who have died in the floods.

Since October 30, Hanoi has seen its worst flooding in 37 years. Over 800 millimetres of rain fell on the city between Friday and Tuesday, leaving streets and surrounding farmland submerged in up to a metre of water.

Archbishop Ngo Quang Kiet visits the victims of the flood.
On Thursday evening, residents of neighborhoods near the Red River and other waterways were preparing to evacuate their homes if water levels rise. Water pouring downstream from mountainous areas in Vietnam's north-west is still threatening to overflow the river's banks, though the rain in Hanoi itself had abated by Thursday morning.

According to Vietnam's National Committee for Storm and Flood Control, heavy rains and flooding in central and northern Vietnam had caused 59 deaths and left seven missing through Thursday evening, though independent counts put the numbers somewhat higher.