Tue, Dec 26, 2017 - Page 5 News List

Vietnam braces for storm as Philippines toll hits 240

NOWHERE TO GO:Residents on the Philippine island of Mindanao were warned to stay clear of the sea, but were surprised by inland flash floods and mudslides

Reuters, HANOI and MANILA

A resident smiles as she walks home with relief supplies being distributed to storm-affected villages in Lanao del Norte province, southern Philippines.

Photo: AP

Authorities in Vietnam yesterday prepared to move 1 million people from low-lying areas along the southern coast as Severe Tropical Storm Tembin approached, after it battered the Philippines with floods and landslides that killed more than 240 people.

Tembin was expected to slam into Vietnam later in the day, after bringing misery to the Philippines just before Christmas.

Vietnam’s disaster prevention committee said that 74,000 people had been moved to safety from vulnerable areas, while authorities in 15 provinces and cities were prepared to move more than 1 million.

The government ordered that oil rigs and vessels be protected, and it warned that 62,000 fishing boats should not venture out to sea.

Schools were ordered to close in the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City.

On Sunday, Tembin hit the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) in the South China Sea, parts of which are contested by countries including Taiwan, Vietnam and China. No casualties were reported in outposts there.

Tembin is to be the 16th major storm to hit Vietnam this year. The storms and other disasters have left 390 people dead or missing, according to official figures.

In the Philippines, rescue workers were still struggling to reach remote areas hit by Tembin, which on Friday unleashed landslides and floods across the southern Philippines.

The death toll climbed to more than 240, with scores of people still missing, officials said yesterday

The storm on Friday struck the country’s main southern island of Mindanao, which often escapes the about 20 storms that batter the rest of the archipelago nation each year.

Philippine Office of Civil Defense officials said the number of confirmed deaths from Tembin on Mindanao’s Zamboanga Peninsula had risen to 78, while the death toll in Lanao del Sur province on the island went up to 27.

The storm killed 135 others in the northern section of the island, police said yesterday, a figure that was unchanged from a day earlier.

Rescuers were still looking for 107 people in these three areas. Many were feared killed by mudslides and flash floods that buried or swept away hundreds of houses last weekend.

The full extent of the devastation was only becoming clear as the most remote areas were being reached.

Health worker Arturo Simbajon said that early the entire coastal village of Anungan on the Zamboanga peninsula of Mindanao Island has been wiped out by a barrage of broken logs, boulders and mud that swept down a river and out to sea.

“Only the mosque was left standing,” Simbajon said. “People were watching the rising sea, but did not expect the water to come from behind them.”

Butuan City-based Philippine Office of Civil Defense Regional Office Director Manuel Luis Ochotorena said he expected the death toll to rise.

“Many areas in Zamboanga Peninsula are still without power and communications, some towns are cut off due to collapsed bridges, floods and landslides,” he said.

Civil defense office officials said that about 13,000 Mindanao families — at least 52,000 people — remained in evacuation camps on Christmas Day, many with few, if any, possessions left.

Disaster officials said many villagers had ignored warnings this time to get out coastal areas and move away from riverbanks.

Tembin swept out into the South China Sea early on Sunday.

Additional reporting by AFP

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