Vietnam fishermen in danger as storm nears

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HANOI, Oct 2 (Reuters) Hundreds of Vietnamese fishermen were in danger at sea as storm Lekima headed towards the country's central coast after killing five people in the Philippines.

More than 650 fishermen were still in the path of the storm, including 194 who had taken shelter in the Spratlys, the on-line Vietnam Net newspaper ( quoted a report from the sea border patrol forces as saying.

It said another ship with 25 people aboard was in danger as the vessel was close to the Paracels, near the centre of Lekima, which killed five people and left four missing in the Philippines as it strengthened into a storm and headed for Vietnam.

The Hanoi government said it had contacted more than 160,000 fishermen working in the South China Sea before the arrival of Lekima, centred north of the Paracels today morning and moving northwest into the Tonkin Gulf.

Lekima -- the Vietnamese name of a fruit -- was swirling winds of up to 117 kph, moving at 15 kph and would make landfall on the central coast on Wednesday night, the national weather centre said.

The storm was expected to dump heavy rains on central Vietnam and might trigger landslides and flash floods, it said in a bulletin.

It is expected to hit land about 800 km north of the Central Highlands, Vietnam's main coffee growing region where the new harvest is expected to start in three weeks.

The storm would not harm the coffee harvest or disrupt Vietnam's production of oil and gas and rice further to the south.

Traders said if heavy rains fell from late October, coffee cherries would drop earlier than usual and the drying process would be disrupted, producing poorer quality beans.

Up to 10 storms strike Vietnam a year and Lekima is the fifth of 2007. The country's three-month storm season often ends this month.

In August, floods killed 74 people, destroyed thousands of homes in central Vietnam and cut off sections of the country's north-south railways.


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