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Vietnamese evacuate before Typhoon Durian arrives

Written by: Staff
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HANOI, Dec 4 (Reuters) Thousands evacuated their homes and ships were called in to shore as Typhoon Durian approached Vietnam's central coast today after battering the Philippines and killing up to 1,000 people there.

The storm, named after a pungent and spiky Asian fruit, strengthened yesterday in the South China Sea and was expected to bring high winds and heavy rains to south-central Vietnam on Monday night and into Tuesday, weather forecasters said.

The National Centre for Hydro and Meteorology forecast Durian would make landfall in coastal Khanh Hoa and Ninh Thuan provinces on Monday. It was blowing at about 130 kph out at sea and authorities warned residents waves could rise to 7 metres.

Typhoon Durian is forecast to dump heavy rains on Vietnam's central coffee-growing area during peak harvest time. Vietnam is the world's second-largest producer after Brazil.

Authorities in Vietnam, where hundreds, if not thousands of people are killed each year in tropical storms and typhoons, are working to improve procedures to save lives after hundreds of fishermen were lost in a typhoon named Chanchu in May this year.

In October, another typhoon, Xangsane, killed at least 70 people and destroyed or submerged hundreds of thousands of homes when it struck the central coastal city of Danang, despite early warnings and preparations.

With the approach of Durian, authorities called in fishing vessels and ordered oil firms to check their rigs and off-shore stations in southern waters. People on land were warned of strong winds, flash floods and especially landslides after the storm.

One Vietnamese fisherman died and three were missing after their boats sank while running to take shelter.

Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declared a state of national calamity after Durian killed 425 people and left nearly 600 missing across three central regions.

REUTERS LL PM1405

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