September 28, 2005

Typhoon Damrey and floods kill 74 in Asia

By Ho Binh Minh

HANOI (Reuters) - The death toll from flash floods spawned
by Typhoon Damrey more than doubled on Wednesday as the
hardest-hit Vietnam said it had recovered the bodies of 33
people swept away in the northern mountains.

The deaths took the known toll to at least 74 in Damrey's
rampage across the main Philippine island of Luzon, the
southern Chinese island of Hainan -- where the economic damage
was estimated at $1.2 billion -- Vietnam, Laos and northern

State-run Vietnam Television said 38 people were swept away
on Tuesday night as the worst floods in 40 years struck Yen Bai
province, 180 km (110 miles) northwest of Hanoi, and soldiers
had so far retrieved 32 bodies.

"The water rose extremely fast and we had no where to run,"
a woman in Yen Bai said.

The broadcaster said another person was killed by
landslides in neighboring Lao Cai province.

Four died in similar torrents in Thailand while China and
the Philippines each reported 16 deaths.

Despite waning after hitting land in Vietnam on Tuesday,
Damrey -- Khmer for elephant -- still pounded wide areas with
heavy rain and water spilling from a cracked dam threatened the
northern Thai city of Chiang Mai.

The city threw up walls of sandbags 5 metres (16 feet) high
in vulnerable areas along the river, but the top official in
the region said the water was seeping relatively slowly from
the reservoir, which has a capacity of 2 million cubic metres.

"We are keeping eyes on the water level, but we are quite
sure we can hold it," Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat told

Vietnam has issued flood warnings after Damrey's 130 kph
(80 mph) winds and 5-meter (16-foot) sea surges shattered
sections of the network of sea dykes protecting a key rice
growing area.

Prime Minister Phan Van Khai at a Wednesday cabinet meeting
called on rescue missions to seal off the broken dykes and pump
out water to help farmers finish rice harvesting.

The area in Vietnam most likely to suffer floods was the
province of Ninh Binh, 90 km (55 miles) south of Hanoi, the
government's Committee for Flood and Storm Prevention said.

It ordered five other northern provinces to reinforce

The rains also struck Laos, where the government said it
had no immediate reports of major damage.


Vietnam's dyke system, built to withstand strong gales and
protect rice fields in the north, buckled under the power of
winds and sea surges.

Sections crumpled in four provinces, power supplies and
telecommunications were hit and thousands of homes swamped.

The government said at least 180,000 ha (445,000 acres) of
rice in seven provinces were damaged.

But the typhoon did not hit the Central Highlands coffee
belt further to the south and had no impact on crude oil output
as Vietnam's offshore rigs are well to the south.

The government said it was rushing emergency food and
supplies to devastated areas to which 330,000 evacuees returned
only to find homes and rice fields under water.

Nguyen Thi Nguyet, general secretary of the Vietnam Food
Association, said the government was expected to take food
relief from national reserves and it would have no impact on

"Rice from the region's warehouses can be used to meet the
food demand," she told Reuters, adding that the region was
harvesting a bumper crop this year.

The northern region incorporating the Red River Delta is
Vietnam's second-largest rice growing area after the Mekong
Delta in the south.

It produces about 36 percent of Vietnam's rice, used mainly
for domestic consumption, and shrimp and fish farms in the area
also suffered typhoon damage.

But the disruption to production will reduce supplies of
vegetables and seafood to regional markets, including Hanoi,
home to 3 million people where prices have already started

(Additional reporting by Ed Cropley and Apornrath
Phoonphongphiphat in BANGKOK)