Strong storm to hit Vietnam's south, casualties feared


  • World
  • Monday, 17 Nov 2008

MYT 12:02:29 PM

HANOI (Reuters) - A strong tropical storm is expected to slam into Vietnam's southern coast late on Monday, the government said, warning of risks to lives and property.

Storm Noul was moving fast and its damage could be substantial, especially as it would land in Vietnam's Mekong Delta, where residents have little experience of fighting storms, the Voice of Vietnam radio said in a bulletin.

State forecasters said winds were travelling at up to 88 km per hour (55 mph) at its centre, bringing heavy rain to southern and central provinces.

"This is a storm with complicated changes, moving fast," the government told authorities in central and southern provinces and the Central Highlands coffee belt in an urgent telegraph. The warning was also sent to state oil and gas group Petrovietnam.

The Mekong Delta expected to get the direct hit has "many small boats and housing with weak structure," Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung said in the telegraph, adding "it could cause huge damage to lives and property".

Authorities must call back all fishing boats in the area from Monday morning, prepare for mass evacuation and tell children to stay away from school, since the storm would affect a vast region within a diameter of 400 km (250 miles), he said.

Noul could disrupt oil and gas production off Vietnam's southern coast while heavy rains may halt the coffee harvest about to peak in the country's Central Highlands.

All offshore oil production platforms were still operational on Monday as usual, said an official from Petrovietnam's oil trading arm PV Oil.

Vietnam is the world's second-largest coffee producer and the third-largest producer of crude oil in Southeast Asia.

Heavy rains were expected on the central coast and in the nearby Central Highlands where the coffee harvest is peaking. Rains could halt the harvest and prevent farmers from drying beans outdoors, causing delays and lowering bean quality.

Government reports said more than 17,000 fishing boats were operating near the Spratlys in the path of the storm.

The Mekong Delta, where the latest rice crop has been harvested, is rarely hit by storms. Typhoon Linda caught the region unawares in November 1997, killing at least 464 people. The government never revised an initial tally that listed more than 3,200 people as missing.

(Additional reporting by Nguyen Nhat Lam)

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