Strong storm to hit Vietnam's south, casualties feared

  • World
  • Monday, 17 Nov 2008

MYT 10:32:33 AM

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

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

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

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

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

Authorities must call off all fishing boats in the area from Monday morning, prepare for mass evacuation and tell children to stay away from school, given 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.

The Mekong Delta, where the latest rice crop had 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.

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 prevented farmers from drying beans outdoors, causing delays and lowering bean quality.

While government reports said more than 17,000 fishing boats were operating near the Spratlys in the path of the storm, Petrovietnam and investors of oil projects have been requested to devise measures to protect workers and oil rigs.

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

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