Vietnam evacuates low-lying areas as strong typhoon nears

HANOI, VIETNAM (AP) – Vietnam yesterday evacuated more than a million people in its central lowlands as a strong typhoon approached while some regions are still dealing with the aftermath of recent killer floods, state media said.

Typhoon Molave is forecast to slam into Vietnam’s south central coast with sustained winds of up to 135 kilometres per hour this morning, according to the official Vietnam News Agency. The typhoon hit the Philippines before blowing toward Vietnam.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc ordered provincial authorities late Monday to prepare to evacuate about 1.3 million people in regions lying on the typhoon’s path.

“We must keep our guard up to protect the lives of the people. That is the utmost important task to get people to safe places,” Phuc was quoted as saying in an emergency meeting with officials in charge of disaster response.

Those living in vulnerable, low-lying areas will head to sturdier shelters inland. The number of people to be evacuated may shrink as the typhoon’s path becomes more certain.

People move fishing boats to a safe place ahead of Typhoon Molave in Danang, Vietnam. PHOTO: AP

Phuc expressed fears that Molave, the latest disturbance to threaten Vietnam this month, could be as deadly as Typhoon Damrey, which battered the country’s central region in 2017 and left more than a hundred people dead.

The central provinces of Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Hue were hit hard by severe flooding and landslides that killed 136 people and left dozens missing early this month. Torrential rains are expected in the still-flooded and isolated region, Vietnam News said.

In the Philippines, most of the people who left their high-risk communities for shelters during the storm were starting to return home after the weather cleared.

A small number of evacuees whose houses were destroyed or blown away will stay longer in evacuation centres until they find new shelters.

Meanwhile, three people died and a dozen others are missing after the typhoon triggered flooding across the central Philippines, officials said yesterday, with thousands still sheltering in evacuation centres.

Typhoon Molave struck on Sunday, inundating low-lying villages and farmlands, knocking down power lines and destroying hundreds of houses as it crossed the archipelago.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) warned the number of casualties could rise as regional authorities assess the damage in their areas. The three deaths were all drownings, NDRRMC spokesman Mark Timbal said.

Among them was a woman who was swept away by surging currents as she tried to cross a river, Rizajoy Hernandez of the Civil Defence office in the Central Visayas told AFP. Twelve people, mostly fishermen, have been reported missing after being caught in rough seas. More than 70,000 people remain in over 800 evacuation centres.

The Philippines is hit by an average of 20 storms and typhoons every year, making them a dangerous and disruptive part of life in the country.

Many of the storms are deadly, and they typically wipe out harvests, homes and infrastructure, keeping millions of people perennially poor.

The country’s deadliest typhoon on record was Super Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,300 people dead or missing in 2013.