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Typhoon kills 50 in Vietnam, heads to Thailand

Written by: Staff
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HO CHI MINH CITY, Dec 5 (Reuters) Typhoon Durian swept southern Vietnam with strong winds and heavy rains today killing at least 50 people, sinking hundreds of fishing boats and damaging houses, days after it battered the Philippines.

State-run Vietnam Television showed footage of a hospital receiving injured patients in Ba Ria Vung Tau province, which ecorded 23 deaths, the largest number in the country. The roofs of houses were ripped off, electrical pylons and trees felled.

''It's the hardest storm we've ever felt,'' one resident near commercial hub Ho Chi Minh City told VTV. One of Vietnam's deputy prime ministers Le Thanh Hai said the government would help residents rebuild their homes.

At least 50 people were killed and 46 reported missing in five provinces -- Ba Ria Vung Tau, Ben Tre, Binh Thuan, Vinh Long and Tien Giang -- and a commune on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City.

The national flood and storm control centre said in a report on Tuesday that Typhoon Durian damaged or destroyed 18,812 houses and sank 858 fishing boats.

Weather forecasters said the storm, which has winds up to 120 km per hour, was headed west after leaving low-lying provinces of Vietnam's Mekong Delta and into the Gulf of Thailand.

Durian, named after a strong-smelling spiky Asian fruit, could remain a typhoon for the next day, forecasters said.

The southern tip of Vietnam is rarely struck by typhoons or tropical storms and officials said they feared severe flooding and landslides once the storm passed. The area was hit in November 1997 by Typhoon Linda in which there were 600 known deaths and 2,123 never accounted for.

Vietnamese authorities evacuated tens of thousands of people from vulnerable south and central areas before the arrival of Durian, which slammed into the Philippines one notch below a category 5 super-typhoon on Thursday.

Today, disaster officials raised the toll to 526 dead and 740 missing in three regions of the Philippines hit by Durian, the fourth typhoon in three months. Durian affected more than 1 million people in the archipelago.

Disaster officials said nearly 300,000 houses were destroyed while agriculture and infrastructure damage were estimated at 608 million pesos (.25 million), devastating large swathe of hemp and coconut farms in the central Bicol region.

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, south of Manila.

REUTERS PDM VC1906

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