Sun, Oct 01, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Vietnam initiates mass evacuation as storm closes in

AP , HANOI

Vietnam began evacuating more than 180,000 people from its central coast as powerful Typhoon Xangsane approached from the Philippines, where it left at least 63 people dead and about 70 missing, officials said yesterday.

"The evacuation, the biggest ever in central Vietnam, must be completed before 5pm Saturday," said Van Phu Chinh, head of the regional Flood and Storm Control Department in Danang.

The evacuees were from nine central provinces that could be affected by the typhoon, he said.

About 522 fishing boats with nearly 4,800 fishermen on board were still out at sea, he said.

In Danang, soldiers helped fishermen who had returned to shore move their boats to higher land yesterday. People streamed out of coastal communities, boarding buses and motorcycles to seek shelter inland in schools and government buildings.

Xangsane, packing winds of 120km per hour and gusts of up to 150kph, was expected to make landfall in central Vietnam early today, according to the national weather center.

In the Philippines, at least 63 people were killed by flash floods, landslides and falling debris, officials said yesterday. About 70 others were missing, the Office of Civil Defense said, adding that close to 40,000 people were forced to flee their homes in metropolitan Manila and 15 northern and central provinces.

Electricity was restored to about 60 percent of the main Philippine island of Luzon, which suffered a total blackout on Thursday, National Transmission Corp said. Large areas in the southern Luzon region were still without electricity.

In Vietnam, heavy rains were expected in central provinces late yesterday, the national weather center said, warning the storm could unleash flash floods and landslides across the region.

Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung was yesterday directing emergency operations in Danang, and urged provincial governments to report to the operations center every two hours, yesterday's Nhan Dan newspaper reported.

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