People of the Ca Dong ethnic minority group in Long Vot Village, Son Long Commune, Son Tay District, Quang Ngai Province do not know why the village has been continuously struck by lightning.
After days of fear, they have relocated to another area as they are afraid of being hit by lightning in the central Vietnamese province.
Narrow escape from death
Long Vot Village is located deeply in an ancient forest. The shortest way to reach the village is a narrow path on mountains passing through Ngoc Tem Commune, Kon Plong District, Kon Tum Province.
Before entering the village, Dinh Van Sieng, an official in Son Long Commune, reminded a Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporter to be careful as it is raining these days.
Just taking a false step, they can fall into an abyss next to the path.
If they go close to the cliff, they may be bitten by terrestrial leeches.
Being dog-tired after going along the narrow path passing through hills, they intended to take a rest but Sieng said, “Hurry up so that you can leave the village before afternoon. It’s terrible if there are thunderstorms or thunder."
Sieng’s warning and a report by the People’s Committee of Son Long Commune on repeated lightning strikes in Long Vot Village urged them to speed up.
|Dinh Thi Truong, her husband, and her son come to a new accommodation after narrowly escaping death caused by lightning. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre|
Passing Ha Tin Stream and a steep incline, they saw many people leveling mountains to build houses.
Sieng said that “locals have left the village and came here to build houses to avoid lightning.”
Walking slowly on a newly paved pathway, Dinh Van Diem, a resident of Long Vot Village, said, “My daughter and niece were struck by lightning last year. I thought they were dead but fortunately, they were not."
The accident occurred at about 7:00 pm when they were coming to Diem’s house and it was raining at the time.
When they were on the way, lightning occurred with deafening claps of thunder. Then, Diem’s daughter and niece fell down and fainted.
“Fortunately, lightning lit up the area so some villagers saw my daughter and niece lying on the ground. Frankly, I thought they were dead, but luckily they are still alive," he said.
After such an accident, people in Long Vot Village lingered to stay there but lightning remained.
“Lightning kills buffaloes, pigs, and plants,” Diem said.
All walks of life in the village have faced losses. Many residents cannot stand lightning strikes, so they decided to leave the village.
“Lightning strikes are like exploding bombs, turning over the soil. Who dares to live there?” Diem said.
Diem’s new house, built from the structure of his old house, has been completed.
His neighbor is Dinh Thi Truong, who narrowly escaped death caused by lightning.
While using bambusa procera to build walls of their house, Dinh Van Dao, Truong’s husband, looked at the dark sky and said since being hit by lightning, Truong’s mind has not been completely sound.
Seeing lightning strikes, she huddles as she is panicking. Their son is the most pitiful as he bursts into loud wails whenever there is a lightning strike.
“My wife and my son are of few words. I am even afraid, while my wife and my son are terrified of lightning,” Dao said.
Whenever seeing dark clouds, Truong and her son hide in their house. After escaping death, the woman is sometimes inane and says nonsense words that no one can understand.
Such pain becomes the common fear of the village.
Do Thanh Vuot, chairman of the People’s Committee of Son Long Commune, said, “It is terrible to be struck by lightning once. Meanwhile, the village is continuously hit by lightning strikes.”
Leaving village, seeking safe shelter
Long Vot Village has been suffering from lightning strikes for some five years.
According to local residents, lightning hits three to four houses per year.
The Son Long Commune authorities find it hard to explain the phenomenon to put locals’ minds at ease.
According to scientists, highland areas often suffer from lightning strikes, while Long Vot Village is in a low-lying area surrounded by mountains and hills.
Amid the concern of residents, the People’s Committee of Son Long Commune held a meeting. At the meeting, residents expressed their desire to leave the village to come to another place.
“Besides dangerous lightning strikes, Ca Dong people have an age-old custom that they will not live in lightning-hit areas. For them, the village is a bad place and God does not allow them to live there,” Vuong said.
After the meeting, the authorities of Son Long Commune assigned officials to dismantle all houses in Long Vot Village and relocate them to a new place.
As many as 17 households with 73 people have left the village.
Their new living place is only some two kilometers from the old one, but Diem affirmed that “only the old village is hit by lightning, the new one has never been hit”.
|After many years of fear, residents in Long Vot Village have found their new accommodations. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre|
Ca Dong people have abandoned the nomadic way of life. They live stably in villages.
The relocation of such a whole village as Long Vot has never been seen earlier.
Dinh Van Don, the oldest person in the village, said he is near his end but has to hurriedly leave the village.
Coming to the new place, he put up a makeshift tent using canvas. Despite its poor conditions, it, for Don, is safer than his old house in Long Vot Village.
“I spend my whole life in this mountainous area and I have yet to see another place hit by lightning strikes as my village. I will not return even being offered gold,” Don said.
When the Tuoi Tre reporter expressed an intention to come to the old village, Don prevented it. Other Ca Dong people also advised against reaching the land.
The fear has turned the village which used to be home to many generations to a no-man’s land.
Chewing betel nuts to dispel the coldness in the mountainous area, Don pointed his finger at a wood pile around his tent and said, “That is all of my assets. My fruit garden in the old village is damaged by lightning strikes.
“If it remains, I will not return. It will be miserable if I am hit by lightning as Truong.”
The People’s Committee of Son Long Commune assigned officials to help residents relocate their houses. However, their new accommodations have no road, water, and electricity.
Villagers expect the government to develop roads, and water and power supply systems so that they can stabilize their lives.
According to chairman of the People’s Committee of Son Long Commune Do Thanh Vuot, this is a legitimate aspiration of local residents. The commune has reported the proposal to higher level agencies.
The relocation is just a temporary solution. They still dream of a safe resettlement area replacing their current narrow accommodations.
Since being hit by lightning, the village in the Truong Son Dong forest has become well known. It is also called 'lightning-hit village,' 'village of lightning' or 'village of the God of thunder.'
Dinh Truong Giang, vice-chairman of the People’s Committee of Son Tay District, said that “the district expects scientists to research and explain the reasons for the strange weather phenomenon in Long Vot Village to set locals’ minds at rest.”
Regarding a resettlement area, Giang said the district has met with and listened to residents’ opinions, and reported their proposals to provincial agencies for support.
The district’s tight budget makes it unable to build a new resettlement area, Giang noted.