Typhoon kills 2, ravages homes in Vietnam

/ Source: The Associated Press

Typhoon Lekima slammed into Vietnam's central coast Wednesday night, killing at least two people, destroying hundreds of houses and unleashing floods in one of the country's poorest regions.

The storm made landfall in Quang Binh and Ha Tinh provinces around 7 p.m., packing winds of more than 80 mph, disaster officials said.

Disaster officials had evacuated about 400,000 people from the region, moving them to schools and public buildings further inland.

A 13-year-old boy drowned in Quang Ngai while trying to anchor his family's boat, and another death was reported in Quang Binh province, said provincial disaster official Truong Ngoc Hung.

Hundreds of houses collapsed and the typhoon tore the roofs off scores more, said disaster official Nguyen Duc Tien.

The typhoon knocked down telephone and power lines in Ha Tinh Province, causing widespread blackouts.

Lekima, named after a Vietnamese fruit, destroyed thousands of acres of rice crops in Nghe An Province, according to officials there.

Lekima was upgraded from a tropical storm to a typhoon as it approached the coast Wednesday afternoon.

China evacuations
Lekima earlier made landfall near China's beach resort of Sanya, on the southern tip of tropical Hainan island, trapping tourists and forcing the evacuation of over 225,000 residents.

Over 20,000 fishing boats were ordered back to port as the storm shut down almost all tourist attractions in Sanya during what should have been a peak national holiday week.

Lekima, which weakened to a tropical storm when it hit Hainan, changed course, returned to sea and gathered strength for its assault on Vietnam.

More than 3,000 passengers and some 1,200 cars were stranded in Hainan on Tuesday as ferries linking the island province with the Chinese mainland were suspended because of the typhoon.

"The tourists are still unable to go outdoors today because the rain remains heavy," a receptionist surnamed Qiu at the Hilton Hotel in Sanya told Reuters by telephone.

"We have offered them some indoor activities like surfing on the Web as diversion," she said.

New typhoon forms
The storm, which killed five people in the Philippines at the weekend, did not hurt coffee and rice crops or crude oil production, Vietnam's key export products, which all lie hundreds miles further to the south.

Vietnam often faces up to 10 storms a year and Lekima is the fifth in 2007.

Another could be on the way.

Tropical storm Krosa has evolved into a typhoon on the west Pacific on Wednesday and is expected to hit Taiwan and China's east coast over the next few days.

The mid-strength typhoon will reach the east coast of Taiwan on Saturday, the island's Central Weather Bureau said.

Late last month, 2.7 million people were evacuated from around Shanghai on China's east coast as a precaution ahead of Typhoon Wipha.

That storm lashed the region with high winds and torrential rains, killing at least nine people and causing direct damage estimated at $880 million, the Xinhua news agency said.