Dead fish were reported to be washed up on the beach of Ha Tinh province since 6 April and subsequently on the coast of three other central provinces (Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien -Hue).

Scientists in Vietnam and South East Asia region have largely agreed that the massive death was caused by toxic waste released into the ocean from illegal pipes of a steel plant built by the Taiwanese corporation Formosa Plastics.

Bishop Paul Nguyen Thai Hop of Vinh Diocese, reports that millions of fishermen and others suddenly found themselves out of work and become disoriented due to the catastrophe. Many of them are among his flock.

“Panicking, impoverishment and indignation are the miseries that these people have to go through as their living have been completely disturbed,” he notes in a pastoral letter dated 13 May, 2016 on the feast of Fatima.

“The residual effect of heavy metal poisoning on people's health is even more devastating,” the prelate warns. “These toxic elements would remain in the seabed for a long haul. The sea water and the currents will dilute the concentration of the toxic waste lower enough not to cause sea creatures immediate death, they, however, would suffer long term harm from their infected foods. When humans consume seafood, fish sauce, sea salt that were poisoned, this harmful element would infiltrate and accumulate more and more in their bodies. When the threshold is reached, the concentration of this poison would cause diseases such as cancer, brain damage...they can cause even deformities, birth defects on fetuses for generations to come.”

Despite the extent of this catastrophe, “for more than a month, the authorities have been dodging to disclose the cause and the culprit who are responsible for this catastrophe,” the chairman of Vietnamese Episcopal commission for Justice and Peace laments. “Besides, there are officials who have been encouraging people to consume seafood (in the affected areas) without any scientific grounds to back up their claims. What one finds hard to understand is the fact that the government is unleashing their iron fist to crack down violently on those who protest in order to demand a restoration of clean environment for the people.”

Facing the government’s willful denial of verifiable realities, the prelate states that: “We cannot keep being indifferent to the disastrous environment pollution which is wreaking havoc not only the Central coastline but also causing a long term risk for the whole nation. Truth be told as we are facing a very important issue, not only involving each and every one of us but also generations to come. If I may say, the ocean is screaming in desperation for being poisoned to death and every humans, every creatures are being gravely affected by this disaster. We need to know that ‘for human beings to contaminate the earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life – these are sins’. For ‘to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God’”. (Pope Francis, Laudato Sí No. 8)

“In accordance with the Holy Father Pope Francis' teaching, we cannot tolerate any insensitive and irresponsible actions against the environment,” Bishop Paul goes on. “Meanwhile, we reserve the right to demand others, while seeking to meet the needs of our generation, must not cause any harm to the future generations. We have the right to ask the authorities to establish a consistent and effective legal system to protect our ecosystem. Not to allow anyone who abuses power structure based on the techno- economic paradigm when sabotaging the country, our freedom as well as social justice. (cf. Pope Francis, Laudato Sí, No 53 and No 59 ).”

“Therefore, I earnestly call on our brothers and sisters to show your Christian nature, which is to be responsible for our homeland and the future generations, to be sharing and in communion specifically with those who are victims of disastrous environmental pollution by doing the followings:

- Be willing to give up our consumer lifestyles that disregard environmental issues. Be determined not to produce ‘tainted food’ which can cause destruction of health, damage to the lives of our fellow citizens; abandon the path of whichever economic development that is not only unstable but also destructive to the environment;

- Helping those brothers and sisters who are victims of this disaster through visits, emotional as well as material support

- Actively destroy, bury as safely as possible, the dead sea creatures to prevent toxic emissions

- Not possessing, selling of seafood and processed foods that came from contaminated or suspected to be contaminated seafood

- Cooperation with individuals and organizations of good will to find out the cause of the disaster, as well as efforts to find measures to overcome this disaster;

- Implementation of the rights of citizens by the Constitution and laws of Vietnam and the International Convention provisions; peacefully express right to require transparency in running the country, as well as disaster management and forced the perpetrators must be tried properly to justice.”