May 19, 2006

Asia typhoon kills 104

HANOI (Reuters) - A typhoon that raked the South China Sea
has killed at least 104 people, and Vietnamese officials said
on Saturday that more than 160 fishermen were still missing and
feared dead.

Typhoon Chanchu, the strongest on record to enter the South
China Sea in May, the start of the storm season, left a trail
of destruction through China, Vietnam and the Philippines.

It killed at least 37 people in the Philippines last
weekend. By late Friday, bodies of 44 Vietnamese fishermen were
found by Vietnamese and Taiwanese rescuers after Chanchu, the
Chinese word for "pearl," moved west briefly before changing
course to head north, sweeping away dozens of Vietnam's ships
in its path.

The typhoon, with winds up to 170 km per hour (106 miles
per hour), killed 23 people in China after it slammed into the
southern coast on Thursday and moved north where it weakened.

In Vietnam five fishing ships sank off the central city of
Danang with 122 crew members, and rescuers have found 20 bodies
and rescued 30 others, said Tran Van Huy, director of the
city's Fisheries Department.

"The toll of 20 is preliminary, while the loss of lives
will be huge," Huy told Reuters by telephone. "We also have
five more ships missing with 97 people."

A Red Cross Association official in Quang Ngai province
said bodies of five fishermen were recovered.

State media on Saturday said another 19 fishermen from
Quang Nam province were killed.

Vietnamese officials said Chanchu's toll was high because
fishermen had tried to avoid the typhoon by sailing north, not
anticipating that the typhoon would change direction.

They said the toll could rise further by next Tuesday when
many fishermen who had taken shelter on Chinese islands were
expected to return with news of others who might be missing.

In China, Chanchu had forced the evacuation of more than 1
million people and the cancellation of flights and ferries.

Natural disasters, especially storms and floods, claimed
lives of several hundred people in Vietnam each year,
especially during its storm season between May and October.