Storm halts Vietnam harvest, threatens fishermen

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NHA TRANG, Vietnam, Nov 24 (Reuters) A tropical storm has dumped rain on several south-central Vietnam provinces, disrupting the coffee harvest and endangering fishermen, officials said today.

The streets of the coastal resort of Nha Trang were quiet after a night of rain, wind and waves from Tropical Storm Hagibis, downgraded from a typhoon yesterday as it changed direction in the South China Sea after hitting the Philippines.

The government's flood and storm committee said nearly 31,000 people had been moved away from the coast in four provinces.

Vietnam sent a diplomatic note to China about four vessels with 36 fishermen requesting shelter in Chinese territory. Authorities alerted 245,000 fishermen and most sailed out of the danger zone, government reports said.

Officials in the main coffee-growing province of Daklak said light rain had kept farmers from resuming the harvest. The disruption since Thursday at the peak of the harvest threatens to delay deliveries from the world's top robusta producer.

The storm is also passing Vietnam's oil and gas production fields in the South China Sea.

Historically, storms rarely strike in late November, the usual start of a six-month dry season.

Vietnam's long coastline is battered every year by up to 10 storms, killing hundreds, even thousands of people. Since August, some central provinces have been hit by a series of storms, raising floodwater to the highest levels in decades.

So far this year, storms and floods have killed 368, injured 515 and left 30 unaccounted for, according to government reports. Total property damage was 441 million dollars.

REUTERS SKB ND-858

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