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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Typhoon Doksuri batters central Vietnam, killing 4

Shaken residents were piecing their homes and businesses back together on Saturday after the powerful storm hammered large swathes of the country's coastline

A man and his daughter ride past a row of destroyed homes in the central Vietnamese town of Ky Anh town on September 16, 2017, the day after Typhoon Doksuri made landfall. Hoang Dinh Nam / AFP
A man and his daughter ride past a row of destroyed homes in the central Vietnamese town of Ky Anh town on September 16, 2017, the day after Typhoon Doksuri made landfall. Hoang Dinh Nam / AFP

At least four people are dead and others injured after Typhoon Doksuri slammed into central Vietnam, with heavy rains and strong winds ripping off roofs and knocking over electricity poles.

Packing maximum sustained winds of 135 kilometres per hour, the typhoon made landfall in Ha Tinh province on Friday, pounding six coastal districts and destroying the roofs of 62,500 houses, disaster official Ngo Duc Hoi said.

In the neighbouring province of Quang Binh, farther south, a man fell to his death when he tried to reinforce his house and an elderly man fell to the ground in his yard and died of head injuries, said another disaster official named Nguyen Duc Toan. Ten other people were injured by falling trees or debris, he added.

Tran Xuan Binh, a disaster official in Nghe An province, north of Ha Tinh, said an 83-year-old woman died after being hit by falling debris, while in Thua Thien Hue province, south of Quang Binh, a man was swept away and died in a swollen river.

Some 123,000 homes were damaged altogether and trees and power lines torn down in five hard-hit provinces, the national disaster agency said. Blackouts were widespread and technicians tried to restore power as flooding was reported in some villages.

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As of early Friday, 79,000 villagers in high-risk areas in five central provinces had been evacuated and another 210,000 were to be moved to safety ahead of the typhoon, the Vietnam Disaster Management Authority said.

Around 40 flights were cancelled between the capital, Hanoi, in northern Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh City, the commercial hub in the south.

Shaken residents were piecing their homes and businesses back together on Saturday after waking up to the widespread destruction in normally idyllic coastal communities popular among beachgoers.

"I sat inside my house covering my ears, I didn't dare leave as I was so scared," Mai Thi Tinh, whose restaurant in Ha Tinh province was completely destroyed, "The power is still off so we can't do anything. I don't know how long it will take to recover."

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc visited the hard-hit province on Saturday to survey the damage.

"We have to quickly mobilise forces to repair houses and damaged schools … We have to ensure people can get back to normal life," he said on state-run Vietnam Television.

Four fishing boats were reported to have sunk in Quang Ngai province, though many fishermen had dragged their small wooden boats into the streets of coastal towns to try to stop them from being carried away.

Vietnam, a country of 93 million people, is prone to floods and storms that kill hundreds of people each year. Since January, 140 people have been killed or left missing in natural disasters, according to official figures. Floods in northern Vietnam last month killed at least 26 people and washed away hundreds of homes. Last year, meanwhile, more than 200 people were killed in storms.

The country's central coast, where Doksuri hit, is routinely lashed by storms, especially during tropical storm season from May to October.

In more positive news, the eye of Doksuri skirted Vietnam's most important coffee-growing areas and the rains it brought were largely seen as beneficial to the trees, coffee traders said. Rice farmers had rushed to gather in what they could before Doksuri struck.

Doksuri swept through the Philippines on Tuesday as a less powerful tropical depression, killing at least four people and leaving another six missing.