Thousands evacuated as storm batters Vietnam

Vietnamese troops evacuated thousands of people from their homes in the north of the country Sunday due to threats of flash flooding and landslides, as the death toll from Typhoon Conson rose to more than 70.

Typhoon Conson was downgraded to a tropical storm as it hit northern Vietnam late Saturday after battering the Philippines and the southern Chinese island of Hainan over the past week.

State-run Voice of Vietnam radio said the army had sent 3,500 soldiers to help evacuate people in coastal provinces, and others were being moved from dangerous areas in four mountainous provinces due to the threat of flooding.

The region lies far from Vietnam’s Mekong Delta food basket in the south, which supplies 90 percent of rice for exports.

Typhoons and tropical storms regularly hit the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Japan and Vietnam in the second half of the year, gathering strength from the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean or South China Sea before normally weakening over land.

Voice of Vietnam said three naval ships had also arrived in an area near the Paracels archipelago in the South China Sea to search for six missing fishermen.

The government said a person had drowned while swimming in the northern province of Thanh Hoa and 11 people, including the six fishermen, were missing.

A child also drowned when a barge capsized in the northern province of Quang Ninh, a local newspaper said in an online report (www.baoquangninh.com.vn).

Vietnam Airlines said it would resume operations Sunday and planned extra flights to help passengers from the 10 flights it cancelled Saturday.

The Philippines was the worst hit by Conson, and Sunday raised the death toll to 68, with 84 people still missing. Two people were killed in China.

Benito Ramos, head of the civil defence office in the Philippines, said most of those killed had drowned after 40 fishing boats sank. He said Conson caused minimal damage to infrastructure and farm production.

Only 2,500 people remained at temporary shelter areas after nearly 30,000 homes were either destroyed or damaged by flooding and strong winds, Ramos said.

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