Vietnam braces for Typhoon Vamco, 53 dead in Philippines

The coast guard sent teams of rescue personnel, vehicles and rubber boats to Tuguegarao early on Nov 14.
The coast guard sent teams of rescue personnel, vehicles and rubber boats to Tuguegarao early on Nov 14.PHOTO: REUTERS

HANOI/MANILA (REUTERS, AFP) - Vietnam was bracing for Typhoon Vamco to make landfall in the country’s central coast early on Sunday (Nov 15), as the death toll in the Philippines rose to 53 from the country’s deadliest storm this year.

Packing winds of up to 165kmh, Vamco is forecast to hit a swathe of Vietnam’s coast from Ha Tinh to Quang Ngai province, the government’s weather agency said on Saturday. 

"This is a very strong typhoon," Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said, warning provinces in Vamco’s projected path to prepare for its impact. 

Airports have been shut, beaches closed and a fishing ban put in place. The provinces plan to evacuate 468,000 people by the end of Saturday, state media cited the government’s disaster management authority as saying. 

Vietnam is prone to destructive storms and flooding due to its long coastline.

Vamco will be the 13th storm that affects the South-east Asian country this year, where more than 160 people have been killed in natural disasters triggered by a series of storms since early October. 

"There has been no respite for more than eight million people living in central Vietnam," said Mr Nguyen Thi Xuan Thu, Vietnam Red Cross Society President.

"Each time they start rebuilding their lives and livelihoods, they are pummelled by yet another storm." 

In the Philippines, coast guard and disaster agencies scrambled on Saturday to rescue thousands in a northern province after the 21st cyclone to hit the Philippines this year tore through the main island of Luzon late on Wednesday and early Thursday.

Dozens of towns in Cagayan region north of the capital Manila remain submerged, affecting thousands of families, some of whom fled to rooftops to escape two-storey high floods, officials said.

The coast guard sent teams of rescue personnel, vehicles and rubber boats to Tuguegarao early on Saturday, and will bring in more help from nearby provinces, said coast guard commandant George Ursabia.

Accumulated effects of previous weather disturbances, as well as water from a dam and higher plains brought high flooding to Cagayan province, the disaster agency said.

The nearby Magat Dam released water on Friday equivalent to two Olympic-size pools per second, government data showed.

Cagayan Valley is a region of 1.2 million people comprising five agricultural provinces. Nearly 14,000 people are staying in evacuation centres after the floods affected 343,000, the disaster agency said.

"We believe it would take more than a week before the floods subside" if there is no further rain, Tuguegarao City Mayor Jefferson Soriano told DZMM radio station.

Access to the city, home to 163,000 people, was cut due to flooded roads, he said.

Residents took to social media, posting photos and addresses with pleas for rescue. The hashtag #CagayanNeedsHelp was the top trending topic on Twitter with 2.03 million tweets.

"We're already on the third day atop our roof. We need relief goods and clothing because we saved nothing," Mr Ramilo Lagundi, a resident in Tuguegarao City, told DZBB radio station.

Mr Lagundi said he was staying with hundreds of other neighbours on rooftops.

Vamco has killed at least 53 people, injured 52 and left 22 missing in the Philippines, according to the Philippines police and army.