Powerful typhoon hits China, Vietnam

Typhoon Damrey on Tuesday barrelled into the east coast of Vietnam, where officials evacuated 300 000 people after the storm tore a path of destruction through neighbouring China.

The epicentre of the powerful storm, which left at least nine people dead in south-west China on Monday, hit Thanh Hoa province with winds of more than 100kph, a government weather spokesperson said.

In Thanh Hoa and neighbouring Nam Dinh, the storm quickly destroyed some of the protective dykes that had already taken a battering in an unusually tough season of tropical storms, the official said.

“The priority is to evacuate people in danger and then to reinforce the dykes,” said Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai.

Authorities mobilised 30 000 troops and police and moved about 300 000 people before the storm, which was expected to hit several northern and central Vietnamese provinces.

“Damrey is the most powerful typhoon to hit Vietnam in several years,” said the official. “It’s the biggest campaign [to date] to evacuate people in the face of a violent typhoon in Vietnam.”

Damrey, whose name means elephant in Cambodian, on Monday brought 15 hours of raging winds and rains to the Chinese province of Hainan, where it destroyed homes, stranded travellers and left much of the island without electricity.

China’s civil affairs ministry, in a preliminary report, put damage at just 13,4-million yuan ($1,6-million).

But the China Daily estimated losses as high as 10-billion yuan ($1,2-billion), citing widespread damage to rice, rubber and banana crops as well as the destruction or damage of at least 10 000 homes.

Extensive damage to Hainan’s electrical grid will also require costly repairs, while the island’s oil industry is facing damages to facilities and potential cut backs in production, press reports said.

Chinese officials remained cautious about the death toll, while power companies were working to restore electricity.

About 3,9-million residents of Hainan and another 1,8-million people in Guangdong to the north were affected by the storm, the civil affairs ministry said. A total of 287 000 people were evacuated to safer areas.

The central government ordered emergency and rescue procedures to begin immediately, and about 500 tents have been airlifted to the hardest-hit areas, said the ministry.

Press reports said the storm was the biggest to hit Hainan in 30 years.
Residents of Guangdong’s coastal county of Xuwen said it was the strongest storm to hit their area in 60 years.

Hainan’s offshore oil production was expected to be affected by the storm, Xinhua news agency said, but it was too early to assess damages.

The region is prone to tropical storms and typhoons, two of which caused widespread destruction in China and killed scores of people this month.

Typhoon Talim left at least 124 dead and 31 missing, with about 19-million residents affected and 1,8-million evacuated.

Last week, Typhoon Khanun struck the same area of eastern China, killing at least 14 people, with nine missing.—AFP