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Deadly Typhoon Ketsana slams into Vietnam

A powerful typhoon slammed into central Vietnam on Tuesday, killing 32 people and flooding the country's coastline after leaving a trail of death and destruction in the Philippines.
Image: Typhoon Ketsana hits Vietnam
A man walks along the shore of a lake near Danang as Typhoon Ketsana passes through central Vietnam on Tuesday. Hoang Dinh Nam / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: news services

A powerful typhoon slammed into central Vietnam on Tuesday, killing 32 people and flooding towns and villages along the country's long coastline after leaving a trail of death and destruction in the Philippines.

The death toll in the Philippines from Typhoon Ketsana rose to 246 while the economic cost was nearly $100 million, officials said. Philippine authorities braced for another storm that could hit later this week.

Ketsana, which struck Manila and surrounding provinces on Saturday, gathered strength across the South China Sea, made landfall in central Vietnam, where 170,000 were evacuated from its path. It was weakening as it headed west into Laos.

Truong Ngoc Nhi, deputy chairman of the People's Committee in Vietnam's Quang Ngai province, said on state-run television the typhoon was the worst the country had experienced in more than three decades.

Many areas of central Vietnam were inundated, including parts of the port city of Danang, state-run Vietnam Television footage showed, according to Reuters. Homes were damaged and telephone lines were down.

At least 32 people were killed in seven coastal and central highland provinces, VTV said.

National carrier Vietnam Airlines canceled all fights to Danang and schools in the affected area were closed. The airline said it would resume service on Wednesday.

The central Vietnam region hit by Ketsana lies far north of the country's Mekong Delta rice basket. Rain dumped on the Central Highlands coffee belt could delay the start of the next coffee harvest by up to 10 days but exports would not affected, traders said.

New storms
Meanwhile, forecasters said a new storm forming in the Pacific Ocean was likely to enter Philippine waters on Thursday and make landfall later on the northern island of Luzon.

Ketsana dumped more than a month's worth of average rainfall on Manila and surrounding areas in one 24-hour period. About 80 percent of the city of 15 million was flooded.

The Philippine government has come in for scathing criticism for its response, with many calling it inadequate and delayed.

Authorities estimated damage from the storm so far at around 4.69 billion pesos ($98.5 million). More than 1.9 million people were affected and 375,000 had abandoned their homes and taken refuge in evacuation centres.

The Philippine death toll could rise further once reports come in from remote areas, disaster officials said.

"For casualties, the increase will be not as great, but the damage figures may increase," Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro told a news conference.

Several foreign governments and U.N. agencies have pledged nearly $2 million in rice and relief supplies, Teodoro told reporters, adding he met lawmakers from both houses of Congress to seek emergency funds for rehabilitation work.

The typhoon destroyed more than 180,000 tons of Philippine paddy rice, or nearly 3 percent of projected fourth-quarter output, but was unlikely to prompt more imports, a senior government official said.

Authorities ordered extra police to be deployed to prevent looting in communities abandoned by fleeing residents, as frustration rose among those who have lost their homes or belongings.

Lines of bedraggled victims grew long at hundreds of aid distribution centers as floodwaters subsided further and more people went in search of food, clean water, dry clothes and shelter.

Appeal for aid
Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's administration — sensitive to criticism it did not give sufficient warning of the deluge or was too slow to respond — conceded it was overwhelmed but said it was doing all it could to help.

Rain-triggered landslides and flooding cover parts of the Philippines, which was trying to recover from two typhoons.

Officials appealed for international aid, warning they may not have enough resources to withstand the new storm.

Water that reached shoulder-depth in parts of the capital's streets on Saturday had subsided in many areas by Tuesday. People trudged through ankle-deep sludge to reach shelters where volunteers handed out bottles of water and other items. Elsewhere, people used shovels and brooms to begin mopping-up.

Many people complained the aid was too coming too slowly, and was not enough.

Arroyo said those who suffered had a right to complain but appealed to them to understand that the scale of the disaster was huge.

"We're responding to the extent we can to this once-in-a-lifetime typhoon emergency," she said in a statement issued Tuesday.

Gourmet food for victims
Arroyo opened part of the presidential palace as a relief center, where hundreds of people queued Tuesday for packets of noodles and other food donated by companies and individuals. At another center, Arroyo's executive chef cooked gourmet food for victims.

Arroyo and her Cabinet said they would donate two months' salary to the relief effort.

But conditions in many hard-hit areas remained squalid.

In the Bagong Silangan area in the capital, about 150 people sheltered on a covered basketball court that had been turned into a makeshift evacuation center for storm victims. People lay on pieces of cardboard amid piles of garbage and swarming flies, their belongings crammed into bags nearby.

Seventeen white wooden coffins, some of them child-sized, lined one part of the court. A woman wept quietly beside one coffin.

The storm left entire communities covered in mud, cars upended on city streets and power lines cut.

'State of calamity'
The government declared a "state of calamity" in metropolitan Manila and 25 storm-hit provinces, allowing officials to use emergency funds for relief and rescue. Arroyo would issue an executive order within the week declaring a national holiday as "clean up day," the palace said.

The United States has donated $100,000 and deployed a military helicopter and five rubber boats manned by about 20 American soldiers from the country's south, where they have been providing counterterrorism training. The United Nations Children's Fund and the World Food Program have also provided food and other aid.

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