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Typhoon kills 26, sinks boats in Vietnam

Written by: Staff
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HO CHI MINH CITY, Dec 5 (Reuters) Typhoon Durian swept into southern Vietnam killing at least 26 people, sinking hundreds of fishing boats and damaging houses, days after it killed hundreds in the Philippines, government officials said today.

The storm, which has winds up to 120 km (70 miles) per hour, hit the Mekong Delta provinces, an area of southern Vietnam not usually struck by typhoons or strong tropical storms.

Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung, in charge of coordinating storm preparations, warned provincial leaders not to underestimate the strength of the typhoon, even though forecasters were expecting to downgrade it to a tropical storm.

''All provinces should prepare so that we do not have another Linda,'' Hung said on state-run Vietnam Television, referring to a 1997 storm that caused death and destruction in the south.

The broadcast and reports from the national flood and storm control centre said at least 26 people had been killed, 147 injured and 15 were missing. The provinces of Binh Thuan, Ba Ria Vung Tau, Long An and Tien Giang reported casualties and missing.

The national flood and storm control centre said the roofs of 1,120 houses and 22 schools were torn off in Binh Thuan province. In the same province, officials reported 820 boats sank and in Ba Ria Vung Tau, about 100 km south of the commercial capital Ho Chi Minh City, the roofs on about 500 houses were blown off.

Forecasters said the storm was heading west into the Gulf of Thailand, across central Thailand and into the Indian Ocean.

On its current path, the storm could brush Thai resort islands.

Durian, which slammed into the Philippines one notch below a category 5 super-typhoon on Thursday, skirted Vietnam's southern coast overnight, striking Phu Quy island about 120km off the coast.

Authorities evacuated tens of thousands of people from vulnerable areas of south and central Vietnam before the storm.

Durian was the fourth typhoon to hit the Philippines in three months and affected more than 1 million people in the archipelago.

Disaster officials have reported 450 people killed and 630 missing.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo visited central villages devastated by landslides and floods triggered by Durian, named after a strong-smelling spiky Asian fruit.

Winds and torrential rains from Durian sent walls of mud and water crashing onto rural communities surrounding Mount Mayon, an active volcano about 320 km (200 miles), south of Manila.

Supplies were slow to arrive in Albay province, the worst-affected region, and residents, fed up with waiting, dug for cooking utensils and clothes buried under thick volcanic sludge, local radio reported.

Arroyo, dressed in black, called on local officials to stop finger-pointing and instead focus on the relief efforts.

''Landslides and flashfloods are becoming a serious threat to our people and the present and past events remain a hard and painful reminder of constant preparedness,'' she said.

REUTERS SHB RK1240

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