FOUNTAIN VALLEY — A walkathon to benefit flood victims raised almost $100,000 Sunday from 3,000 Vietnamese Americans who marched in support of family members and others left devastated by Vietnam's worst flooding in almost 50 years.
The daylong event, held under blue skies at Mile Square Park, was one of three fund-raisers organized Sunday by the Vietnamese expatriate community in the United States. Walks also were held in San Jose and Houston.
Organizers said the fund-raisers will help families left homeless and hungry by heavy rains since November in the seven central provinces of Vietnam. Money raised from the walks will be distributed directly to various religious groups in the country, which will decide how to best use the donations, said Peter Nguyen, who helped organize the local march.
"This way we can bypass the government entirely. In the past, some government agencies have handled the financial contributions we've sent to Vietnam and only a small percentage of the funds [was] actually used to help the people," said Nguyen, 36, of Fountain Valley.
Vietnam, one of the world's poorest nations, has sustained about $250 million in damage from the rains, which have killed 600 people, destroyed 194,000 houses and left 200,000 families in need of emergency food and water, government officials said.
Participants included a sizable number of youths who were born in the United States but said they were marching to show solidarity with parents who came from Vietnam and relatives affected by the floods.
Matt Nguyen, 16, and his older brother Dave, 19, are from Orange but have relatives in Danang and Hue, two areas hit hard by the flooding.
"Our parents made a donation. We're here to help out by walking," said Matt Nguyen, who marched alongside his brother.
By 11 a.m. officials said they had raised $80,520.