SAN JOSE — A Vietnamese billionaire Wednesday pledged to donate $5 million to San Jose flood victims — the biggest gift since the disastrous flood engulfed three neighborhoods last week.
Kieu Hoang, a Los Angeles County businessman who owns Shanghai RAAS Blood Products, handed Mayor Sam Liccardo a $5 million ceremonial check at an announcement with city officials. Liccardo said all of the money will go to flood victims.
Hoang and Liccardo were joined at a news conference by Tam Nguyen, , whose district includes the Rock Springs neighborhood, which suffered some of the worst damage in the Coyote Creek flooding.
“I’m humbled by his generosity, I’m really proud to have a Vietnamese donor,” said Nguyen. “I hope this will bring some comfort and hope to the victims.”
Nguyen said Hoang decided to donate the money after his friend Chieu Le, the owner of the San Jose-based Lee’s Sandwiches chain, pitched an idea to put donation boxes in his sandwich shops.
“(Hoang) said, ‘That takes too long. How about I give you a million dollars right now?’” Nguyen said.
The donation will go into a relief fund set up by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which has already reached $988,000. Hoang, who is on the Forbes Billionaires List with a net worth of $2.8 billion, flew to San Jose to make the donation Wednesday. He also owns a winery in Napa.
After the 2 p.m. announcement at History San Jose on Phelan Avenue, Hoang toured the flood-damaged sites.
The relief fund will help victims by allocating the money through nonprofits such the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, Sacred Heart Community Service and The Salvation Army.
Nguyen said his district has 33,000 Vietnamese residents, and he estimated that 85 percent of the 400 flood victims in his area are Vietnamese. He wants to see the money spent on housing and transportation needs.
Nguyen has asked Mayor Sam Liccardo, whose office is responsible for the fund, to allow “grass-roots” nonprofit groups to get some of the money.
“They are the people who have direct contact with the victims,” he said.