Many residents of Haiphong were shocked on September 14 to find hundreds of patients from a drug rehabilitation facility roaming in groups in the streets of the city.

Hundreds of police had to be sent out to ensure security. Police blocked the entrances to crowded residential areas and did their best to guide the patients in other directions. Authorities said that in the end the decision was made to allow the patients walk home, and deal with the situation later.

It was reported that about 600 patients escaped the premises of Gia Minh Drug Rehabilitation Centre, roughly 20km away from Haiphong City. Around half of them simply returned, while the others continued on their way.

The group gradually diminished, as many of them reached their own homes by foot. The situation remained relatively calm until a group of around 100 tried to make their way into the city centre. Police detained several and the rest apparently dispersed to their respective destinations.

Nguyen Quang Toan, director of the centre, said the mass escape was a result of the government's decision to increase the mandatory detoxification period from two to four years. They had tried several methods to calm the agitated patients in the preceding months.

Le Khac Nam, the vice chairman of Haiphong People's Committee said, "Technically, patients stay here voluntarily, so we can't force them to stay. When they left, we tried our best persuade them to return, and when they didn't we at least tried to make sure that they all made it to their homes safely. Really, there was almost no disorder or panic."