Natural Disasters in Vietnam: Catastrophes of the Past and Risks of the Future

Vietnam is far away from Europe, but once it was on everyone’s lips. At that time there were tragic events, a war in which many countries were involved. But that is in the past, and now Vietnam is becoming one of the centers of world tourism. More and more vacationers are coming here, and they should know in advance what natural disasters or catastrophes they might encounter. A natural disaster always comes unexpectedly, but if you know about its potential, you can prepare for it.

Climate Characteristics of Vietnam That Can Cause Natural Disasters

Vietnam is one of the countries in Southeast Asia that has access to the sea and is therefore interesting from the point of view of beach vacations. The coasts of the republic are washed by the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, the same that washes the coast of Thailand and is familiar to many tourists from Europe or America. Therefore, the natural conditions in the country are close to those in Thailand or Cambodia.

The coastline of Vietnam is long and rugged with small picturesque bays. Its length is more than 3200 kilometers. Along the coast are numerous islands, the exact number of which no one has been able to count. Most of these islands are uninhabited, but still enjoy the attention of tourists.

The relief of Vietnam is quite complex. Most of the country is made up of plateaus and low mountains. Mountain ranges run along the borders of Vietnam, separating the republic from neighboring countries. In some places, the mountains reach the coast. In the north and south, there are vast lowlands connected to the beds of major rivers. These facts help to better understand the causes of major natural hazards in the country.

The largest river in Vietnam is the Mekong, which flows through the south. It forms a vast delta that is often inundated by floods and storm surges. In the north, the main river is the Hongkha, which also has a large delta. Most rivers in the country flow from the mountains to the sea, they are not long but quite full.

The climate of Vietnam is a tropical monsoon, but it differs greatly in the north and south of the country. If in the south the average summer temperature is close to +32 degrees, and winters are only slightly cooler, then in the north in winter the temperature can drop to +15 degrees under the pressure of cold winds from the Chinese mainland.

In summer, the Southeast Monsoon comes to the Vietnamese coast, bringing heavy rains and often accompanied by typhoons. Vietnam is almost as vulnerable to typhoons as the Philippines. Typhoons and rainfall cause flooding and landslides.

The dry season in the country lasts from November to April, but even then rainfall is possible, although it is light.

About 40 percent of the country is covered with forests. Therefore, natural fires are quite frequent, especially during the dry season.

Potentially hazardous factors that can cause a natural disaster in Vietnam include:

1. Seismic activity. Low intensity. There are no active tectonic zones on the territory of the country, i.e. centers of major earthquakes. Earthquakes occur here every year, sometimes in small series. However, these earthquakes are not characterized by high magnitude and are almost not dangerous.

2. Volcanism. It is very weakly expressed on the territory of the republic. There are five extinct volcanoes and one potentially active one—Sendr Island. The last eruption was recorded in 1923.

3. Highlands. The medium-high mountains along the coast can be affected by heavy rains and typhoons. They often experience landslides that fall on residential settlements.

4. Forests. With more than 40 percent of the country covered by forest, there are many cases of forest fires each year, which can threaten small settlements and certain groups of tourists.

5. Sea coast. In late summer and early fall, the Vietnamese coast is regularly hit by violent typhoons coming from the Pacific Ocean. The southern part of the country is particularly affected, but typhoons also wreak havoc in the north.

6. Heavy rains. These cause short-term flooding during the rainy season and the rise of water levels in river deltas. These events are catastrophic, but recent government efforts have resulted in fewer human casualties.

The Importance of Studying the History of Natural Disasters

The history of natural disasters is important information to learn before traveling to your chosen country. Knowing the potential hazards that may await you will not only help you choose the right location, but also the time of year and season when the risk of being in the epicenter of a natural disaster is minimal.

For example, if you know that Vietnam is prone to long periods of rain, frequent flooding, and frequent typhoons during the summer months, you can choose a different time to travel to the country. Additionally, the summer temperatures are too high for a comfortable vacation.

In this article, you will learn the chronology of natural disasters that have occurred in Vietnam in the past.


News - Vietnam floods with sand

Sand flood in Vietnam - News
Vietnam lies on a quiet part of the Eurasian lithospheric plate, away from its borders with the Pacific and Indo-Australian plates. As a result, seismic activity here is low, and earthquakes, while occurring annually, are not characterized by high intensity.

The strongest earthquake in the last hundred years was recorded in Thainguen in 1961. Its magnitude was estimated at 5.7. No casualties or major damage were recorded.

In September 2023, a series of 9 earthquakes with a maximum magnitude of 4.8 occurred in northern Vietnam near the border with China. Several structures were damaged, but no casualties were reported. The Kontum region is considered the most seismically active zone in the republic. More than 200 small earthquakes have occurred here in the past 3 years.

Volcanic Eruptions

The period of volcanic activity on the territory of the country ended in the Quaternary period. The only active volcano in the republic, Sendr, is located in the South China Sea, 150 kilometers from the coast. It is a group of volcanic cones up to 70 meters high. The last eruption occurred in 1923 and resulted in the formation of a small area of land that was later washed out to sea.


Flood in Vietnam - News

Floods in Vietnam - News
The rainy season, which begins in May and lasts until October, causes frequent flooding. Mountain rivers become raging torrents, water levels rise in the Mekong and Hongkha deltas, and rainfall causes frequent landslides in the mountains.

August 1971

The August 1971 floods in the north of the country were the most catastrophic. Heavy rains caused an unprecedented flood that covered more than 10 percent of Vietnam’s territory. Water washed away dikes, collapsed villages, and swept away bridges. The death toll from the disaster is estimated at 100,000. Never again has such a rampage of the elements occurred.

October 1999

The heaviest rains brought by a tropical storm lasted for 3 weeks. The brunt of the storm hit Thatien Hua Province, where many buildings in the towns were flooded to the first floor. The situation was exacerbated by numerous landslides. As a result of the flooding, more than 600 people died and about 1 million were affected. Approximately 40,000 homes were completely destroyed and 900,000 were damaged.

October 2020

Once again, heavy rains hit central Vietnam. This time the flooding was less severe, but many homes were inundated by 1.7 meters. Torrents of water flooded the railroad bed, disrupting transportation between cities. Over 100 people died that year.

May 2024

An unusual flood occurred in Phan Thiet City in May 2024. A heavy downpour brought waves of sand from the surrounding hills into the city streets. The sand flooded some streets and rose to a height of 1.5 meters. No casualties were reported, but many houses and vehicles were badly damaged.


Nha Trang City - Tornado - News

Nha Trang City - Cyclone - News
Most tropical cyclones in the region develop between May and October. They are called typhoons and often cause significant destruction and loss of life. Between 4 and 6 typhoons hit the country’s coasts each year.

1997, Typhoon Linda

Typhoon Linda hit Vietnam in early November 1997. Linda formed east of the Philippines and made landfall near the southernmost province of Ca Mau on November 2. The typhoon was accompanied by strong winds of up to 95 kilometers per hour and heavy rains. The storm damaged 140,000 homes, destroyed 3,000 fishing boats, breached dikes and downed power lines. As a result, more than 3,000 people died and total damage exceeded $385 million.

2006, Typhoon Changchu

In mid-May 2006, Typhoon Chanchu hit the coast of Vietnam. It caused huge waves that destroyed many villages along the coast. Dozens of boats were sunk. Twenty-one people died, and another 400 fishermen were missing and later presumed dead.

2020, Typhoon Linfa

In mid-October 2020, Typhoon Linfa made its way from the Philippines to central Vietnam. It brought not only strong winds of up to 85 kilometers per hour, but also unprecedented rainfall. For several days, 2290 millimeters of rain fell in the region, almost the annual norm. In some places, tornadoes were observed. As a result, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes destroyed 1000 houses, 160 kilometers of highways, 7 thousand hectares of crops. 112 people and 685 thousand animals died.

Forest Fires

Burning in Vietnam - News

Fire in Vietnam - News
This natural disaster is usually caused by the intense heat that characterizes the summer period, and even heavy rains often fail to prevent fires from breaking out. Sometimes the cause of the fire is human error – burning grass, preparing new land for agriculture, campfires and accidents.

June-August 2019

Due to the unprecedented heat wave, forest fires swept through several provinces in central Vietnam. On June 22, a fire destroyed 37 hectares of forest in Nguan Province, while on June 28, flames in Hatun Province consumed hundreds of hectares and approached several localities. On July 7, a fire broke out on Thanh Vinh Mountain. A team of more than 1,000 foresters and special services was urgently organized to fight the fires, and the spread of the fire was stopped. In total, 782 hectares of forest were destroyed during the summer.


The biggest threat to tourists vacationing in Vietnam is flooding. Their intensity can be very high, the rise of the water – rapid, and the consequences – catastrophic. But the peak of floods is in summer, which is the low tourist season. Therefore, they do not pose a particular threat to mass tourism.

There are almost no earthquakes in the country and their probability can be ignored when planning a vacation in Vietnam. There are no volcanoes in the country.

Seasonal typhoons associated with the passage of tropical cyclones are characterized by high intensity. They are the main cause of flooding, but the greatest threat to fishermen and their settlements.

The threat of forest fires to tourists is minimal, with most fires occurring in central Vietnam.

The best time to visit Vietnam is from November to December and from February to April, when rainfall decreases and many rivers return to their beds. At this time, the summer heat has subsided or not yet begun, and the winter cold does not interfere with vacations in the north of the country.

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