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Storm deluge disrupts transport, delivery services in Saigon

Monday, November 26, 2018, 12:32 GMT+7
Storm deluge disrupts transport, delivery services in Saigon
Hundreds of people line up at Tan Son Nhat airport with their luggage in the hope of getting a cab in the pouring rain. Photo: Tuoi Tre

With streets across Ho Chi Minh City turning into rivers following day-long downpour in the wake of a tropical depression downgraded from storm Usagi on Sunday, making a booking on delivery or ride-hailing platforms was a mission impossible.

One person was killed and another injured by falling trees in Ho Chi Minh City on Sunday as the weather conditions brought about heavy rains and strong gusts to the southern metropolis.

No taxis available

Many customers reported having difficulty flagging a conventional taxi or book a ride via ride-hailing apps.  

Amidst the unfavorable weather conditions, taxi drivers had to repeatedly reject bookings from customers or requests from their companies’ call centers, as they were unable to drive in flooded roads without risking damage to their own vehicles.

At 1:30 am, hundreds of passengers had to queue for almost an hour at Tan Son Nhat International Airport amid the heavy rain to be able to find themselves a cab, according to observation by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.

Similarly, few drivers of such ride-hailing apps as Go-Viet and Grab were available for booking during the foul weather, despite rising demand from commuters.

One such customers, Que An, recalled trying to hail a Grab car many times in the evening to no avail. An was repeatedly notified by the app that all of the drivers were busy and that the customer can try again “in a few minutes.”

But the reality is the woman had to spend hours trying again and again on her app.

Those who managed to book a ride had to accept exorbitant fares.

Other Grab customers said they successfully booked a ride, but the drivers were quickly to call them to say that they could not arrive for pickup due to the congested and flooded roads.

Even when they turned to conventional taxis, commuters were unable to find any available cabs as taxi operators decided to not accept new bookings due to the bad weather.

With the flooded streets, a ride is no longer profitable due to low fares and the high risk of damaging the vehicles, many taxi drivers claimed.

Le Ha Vy, a 12th grader in Ho Chi Minh City, took a taxi to her English class, but was unable to find a cabbie for her return trip.

Vy called the taxi operator several times, “and they finally said a driver is coming,” the student told Tuoi Tre News.

But that driver never showed up, despite Vy having to wait for at least three hours, during which she “frantically switched from different taxi apps to Grab or Go Viet while also calling the taxi operators every now and then.”

“I even walked the streets to look for an available taxi but it was in vain,” she said.

“Eventually my father had to come home from his business trip in a nearby town just to drive me home.”

At 2:30 pm, even though the rain has considerably alleviated, waters were still seen on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City.

Consequently, taxi and ride-hailing drivers still avoided accepting orders from customers.

This screenshot shows a shipping fee of VND60,000 ($2.6) for a 300-meter distance. Photo: Tuoi Tre News

No food-delivering services either

The hours-long rain also caused many service providers to temporary cease their delivery services, while those available started charging extremely high prices.

AlFresco, one of the well-known pizzerias which usually offers delivery within five kilometers of their closest branch, had to cancel the service to guarantee the safety of their employees.

“We still do the deliveries when it rains heavily, but today we are cancelling the service because of the typhoon,” Minh, a female employee at AlFresco in AEON Mall Binh Tan, told Tuoi Tre News on phone.

“Neither can we guarantee the quality of goods after withstanding such whether, nor can we guarantee the safety of our employees,” she said, adding that it was an order from the chain’s managers.

AlFresco is only one of the many food and beverage companies that decided to put the delivery service on hiatus.

Well-known coffee chain The Coffee House and a Taiwanese franchised bubble tea chain Ten Ren both notified customers through the phone that they will suspend delivery for one day until November 26.

Other food-delivering applications including DeliveryNow pushed the shipping fees up in response to the growing demand, harsh weather conditions, and the lack of shippers.

“Due to the bad weather, we had an electricity cut throughout most of the day, so it was difficult to cook anything,” Pham Minh Tuan, a resident of District 4, said.

“However, the food delivering service was too expensive and it was very difficult to get a shipper. Many stores even stopped providing food-delivering option.”

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Ha My / Tuoi Tre News

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