Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Death toll rises in Vietnam storm

Death toll rises in Vietnam storm

Thousands have been displaced as floods inundated nine provinces across central Vietnam [Reuters]

Authorities in Vietnam have stepped up rescue and relief operations after a powerful storm left at least 99 people dead in the country's central region.

A further 22 people were reported missing after tropical storm Mirinae struck on Monday, destroying hundreds of homes and displacing thousands in a region still reeling from the impact of Typhoon Ketsana just over one month earlier.

Nine provinces have been affected with the provinces of Phu Yen and Gia Lai among the worst-hit, suffering some of the most severe floods seen in several decades.

Soldiers in speed boats have been distributing instant noodles, water and other relief supplies to victims in flooded areas, while military helicopters were also dropping food in more isolated areas.

In some areas, water reached the rooftops of buildings, where some residents had sought refuge.

"It is the most devastating flooding in more than 30 years in Phu Yen," the national disaster committee said in a statement, after part of the province's system of dykes was overwhelmed.

Local television reported on Wednesday that thousands of people were stranded in pagodas, schools and other public buildings in Phu Yen, unable to reach their homes.

Pascal Bourcher, operations manager for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in Hanoi, told Al Jazeera that more than 260,000 people had been evacuated.

Supplies running short

Local authorities in the Phu Yen province have requested emergency food and drinking water from the central government in Hanoi after supplied started to run low.

According to a UN report citing Vietnamese authorities, Mirinae destroyed 900 homes and damaged more than 14,000 others while some 18,000 hectares of rice land was flooded.

Before making landfall in Vietnam on Monday, Mirinae had had previously hit the Philippines as a typhoon, leaving at least 27 people dead.

Over 16,000 people are still living in evacuation centres.

Mirinae also killed two people in neighbouring Cambodia.

Vietnam and the Philippines are frequently hit by tropical storms and flooding this time of the year and both countries were hit hard by Typhoon Ketsana in September.

Ketsana caused one of Vietnam's worst disasters in recent years, leaving more than 170 dead and hundreds injured.

It also caused devastating floods, inundated hundreds of thousands of homes and damaged tens of thousands of hectares of rice and other crops.

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