By Tran Thi Minh Ha
Typhoon Noru tore roofs from homes and caused power outages across central Vietnam Wednesday, with hundreds of thousands of people taking refuge after the storm claimed at least 10 lives in the Philippines.
In Danang, Vietnam’s third-largest city, high-rise buildings shook as the typhoon made landfall in the early hours of Wednesday, bringing winds of up to around 120 kilometres (75 miles) per hour, according to the national forecaster.
More than 300,000 people in Vietnam hunkered down in shelters overnight, after forecasters predicted the storm would be one of the biggest to ever hit the country.
Wind speeds were lower than initially feared, but forecasters said heavy rain would continue into the day and warned of landslides and serious flooding.
The defence ministry has mobilised around 40,000 soldiers and 200,000 militia members, equipped with armoured vehicles and boats in preparation for rescue and relief operations, state media said.
In the popular tourist city of Hoi An, the Hoai River was close to bursting its banks, while the ground was littered with metal roof sheeting and fallen trees which had damaged cars and blocked roads.
“The typhoon was terrible last night. I could not sleep as the wind was so strong and loud,” resident Nguyen Thi Hien told AFP.
Around 300 houses in the coastal province of Quang Tri had their roofs blown off late Tuesday as the wind began picking up speed.
“I heard the sound of fallen trees and signboards outside. I was scared. But we were prepared so luckily the losses were not that bad.”
Residents rushed to clean up the debris early Wednesday, with some shops already open and tourists walking the streets.
Almost half of Vietnam’s airports have been closed since midday Tuesday, with schools and offices across several central provinces also shut, while Danang banned the public from going out on the streets.
The central section of the highway linking Hanoi in the north with commercial hub Ho Chi Minh City in the south was closed.
Deaths in Philippines
The Vietnam impact came after Noru slammed into the Philippines earlier this week as a super typhoon with winds of up to 195 kph, leaving 10 dead and eight missing, the civil defence office said.
Noru was forecast to continue moving inland Wednesday, passing over Laos before hitting Thailand’s northeastern Ubon Ratchathani province on Thursday and gradually weakening into a tropical depression.
The Thai authorities warned of heavy rain, and possible flash flooding, and said people living in high-risk areas should prepare to evacuate their homes.
Vietnam is frequently lashed by heavy storms in the rainy season between June and November, with central coastal provinces the worst affected, but scientists have warned they are becoming more powerful as the world gets warmer because of climate change.