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Sep 27, 2023 / 15:42

Hanoi's road patching heroes: For the safety of road travelers

Over the past 13 years, the amateur road repair crews have filled hundreds of potholes and made the roads safer to drive on.

At 10pm, when everyone else is getting ready for bed, a non-professional road repair team leaves their homes to patrol the roads in Thuong Tin District and repair the heavily damaged ones.

Pham Van Hieu and his team do road repairs. Photo: Hanoimoi Newspaper

The team, led by 32-year-old Pham Van Hieu, wants nothing more than safety for motorcyclists and bicyclists whose vehicles are often battered by potholes.

On a recent summer night, the team arrived at a site near the Phap Van-Cau Gie Highway to patch a giant pothole three meters wide caused by overloaded trucks. It poses a danger to drivers because the road is extremely dark at night.

The team consists of nine members who are not accountable to anyone but themselves. All they want to do is repair the roads to prevent accidents.

They have become unpaid road workers after fixing hundreds of potholes in the district, Hanoi and neighboring provinces.

The team works smoothly when equipped with enough tools and materials such as asphalt, shovels and hammers.

After 60 minutes, the large pothole is patched. They ask a passing truck to drive back and forth to ensure the patch is done correctly.

Hieu has been doing this for 13 years. His day job is as an industrial worker.

"I was born and raised near the highway in Khe Hoi Village, Ha Hoi Commune. In 2010, I saw two accidents caused by potholes. A few days later, I crashed into one myself," he told the Hanoimoi (New Hanoi) newspaper.

 Hieu's team mends a road at night. Photo: Hanoimoi Newspaper

"The potholes were full of water after the rain, so many people had crashed into them. When I came home, I thought more people could get hurt. Then, I decided to go out every night and fix the roads.
Hieu's income from his day job is not enough to afford the part-time job. In the beginning, he spent part of his monthly salary to buy tools and materials to repair the roads himself.
"I soon realized that I couldn't do it alone. I asked the workers at the nearby construction sites for help. They fully supported me and gave me all the materials they could, free of charge," Hieu said.
Once he had the materials, his family became the next obstacle. "They were worried about me getting hurt and having health problems," he said.
"He was working around the clock. What he needed was a good night's rest so he could continue his paid work the next day," said Hieu's mother, Le Thi Chien. As soon as he finished his chores, Hieu would leave the house to do his second job. I tried to talk him out of it, but he reassured me that he would be back by midnight. But he often came home much later. I got worried when he couldn't be reached by phone. Then, I was told that he did not notice his phone. Now I'm used to it, she said.
Six years after he started, Hieu had repaired countless roads in Thanh Tri, Phu Xuyen and Thuong Tin districts.
Then he got some help and formed his team, most of whom were students. Among the team members is a 70-year-old man from the same district.
Le Van Dung, a 26-year-old resident of Ha Vy Village in Le Loi Commune, has joined the team for over a year and made dozens of patches.
"I am a worker during the day and a part-time non-professional road worker at night. I'm happy to see people traveling safely on the roads, even though we remain unknown to them," he said.

Hieu asks for help from a truck driver passing by the team's work site. Photo: Hanoimoi Newspaper

Hieu and the team have received a lot of help. Many local people have contributed to their work. But sometimes Hieu and his companions are mistaken for evildoers because people think they are sabotaging the roads.
"Everything comes with risks, and I accept the risks," Hieu said. "I never thought I would stop doing this."
The team not only repairs roads in southern Hanoi but also in neighboring provinces, including Ha Nam.
Le Duc Duy, chief of Khe Hoi village, and Ly Van Son, secretary of Ha Hoi commune's Communist Youth Union, describe Hieu as a hardworking, friendly and kind young man.
"Many people now travel safely thanks to Hieu and his friends. It proves that the young generations, like Hieu and his team, are willing to contribute to society," they said.
As for Hieu, he plans to continue working as long as he is healthy enough. He also hopes that local authorities will crack down on the movement of overloaded trucks, which is the key to reducing damage to Hanoi's roads.