Hanoi experiences a high number of storms and typhoons throughout the year. Infact, the government often issues warnings of severe weather on its way to us, that some businesses don’t even open as a precaution. However, usually by the time the storm actually hits us, it’s normally pretty much fizzled out and we’re just left with drizzly rain – nothing particularly unusual here.
And yet, on 5th June 2014, when there really was a powerful typhoon on its way, we were given no warning. It happened so fast.
Thankfully I wasn’t at home like I usually would have been at that time. I had agreed to cover some hours at work in the early evening, and my boyfriend was working himself. From the window I could see that it was raining, but nothing particularly concerning.
As I finished work at the same time as my boyfriend, he picked me up and noticing there was no power in the area (another common occurrence), we decided to go straight out for dinner instead of going home. What did surprise us on the way was the high number of giant tress, which must have been hundreds of years old, just ripped out of the ground and thrown across all the roads. Infact, at the intersection near Truc Bach Lake, there had been a fatal accident where one tree had fallen onto a taxi, completely crushing the driver.
Lat the last minute Brendan decided he wanted to change his shoes as they were wet so at home, I waited for him downstairs while he walked up the five flights of stairs to our apartment. I noticed he was taking longer than usual, and finally he called for me to come up. Not knowing what the problem was, and him not answering my questions, I slowly, nervously started making my way up the stairs. As I got further up the stairs I noticed water coming down and the fear the we had flooded kicked in.
As I cautiously opened the door, everything hit me really slowly. I first noticed it was windy inside. My first thought was we had left the balcony door open until I realised that the door wasn’t actually there. And then I saw it on the floor, glass everywhere. Again slowly, I move towards the bedroom area, noticed I was getting wet with rain and finally registered that above the bed, I was looking at the sky! Our roof had completely gone.
Due to the shock my thumbs weren’t functioning so I couldn’t press the button to call the landlord. Somehow we got hold of a few friends who came and helped us retrieve our items in the dark using our old-school Nokia phone torches.
Eventually, our landlord sent her handy man round who came with a couple of screwdrivers. I’m not really sure what he was expecting but he definitely hadn’t come prepared. He looked pretty shocked himself and I think in panic, he just started fixing the door on one of our cupboards that had been broken for a few weeks… not really top on our list.
With the help of others, we salvaged our dripping clothes and electronics, packed what we could into our wet backpacks and headed to a hotel nearby. By this time it was midnight, we were exhausted, upset and of course we hadn’t eaten anything.
The following day we heard nothing from our landlord. Noone came to meet or call us to see if we were OK, or discuss what we should do now. Our landlord has never came to see the damage herself, despite her office being less than 5 minutes away and despite my offer to show her the photos, which she declined. My passport was damaged, and as I was going away in a couple of weeks, I had to buy an emergency one, and buy another proper when I returned, none of which she agreed to compensate. We received zero compensation, also being refused to have our second night in the hotel paid for, her excuse being that she had already paid the neighbours $3000 for their damaged room, so could not reimburse us $38.
On the bright side, we’re both OK and were very lucky in an unlucky situation. Things could have been a lot worse if we were home, especially if this had been while we were sleeping.
And we’ve learnt a few things from the experience too:
1. It’s important to make sure you have a trustworthy landlord with a good contract before you rent a house, no matter where in the world you are
2. It’s important it is to establish how safe your house is to live in
3. Move items to the back of the house whenever there’s a storm!! (Only joking)…. (but seriously!)