Thousands flee as Typhoon Vamco heads for Vietnam

No respite for over 8m people in central region of country already reeling from earlier storms

Residents seeking refuge on top of a building in the Cagayan Valley of the Philippines yesterday, after Typhoon Vamco led to severe flooding in the area. Officials have described it as the worst floods in living memory.
Residents retrieving belongings yesterday from their submerged village following floods caused by Typhoon Vamco in the Philippines’ Rizal province during the past week. PHOTOS: REUTERS
Residents retrieving belongings yesterday from their submerged village following floods caused by Typhoon Vamco in the Philippines' Rizal province during the past week. PHOTOS: REUTERS
Residents seeking refuge on top of a building in the Cagayan Valley of the Philippines yesterday, after Typhoon Vamco led to severe flooding in the area. Officials have described it as the worst floods in living memory.

HANOI • Thousands of people have fled their homes in Vietnam as Typhoon Vamco barrelled towards the country's central regions that have already been pummelled by weeks of successive storms.

Airports have been shut, beaches closed and a fishing ban put in place, as the country braces itself for winds of up to 100kmh when the typhoon makes landfall today, likely close to Hue.

Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes in four central provinces, according to the disaster management authority yesterday, while state media said hundreds of thousands more may have to flee.

A series of storms have hit central Vietnam over the past six weeks, causing flooding and landslides that have killed at least 159 people, the authorities said, while 70 others are missing.

The severe weather has also damaged or destroyed more than 400,000 homes, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Roads and bridges have been washed away, power supplies disrupted, and crucial food crops destroyed, leaving at least 150,000 people at immediate risk of food shortages, it added.

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

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

Typhoon Vamco has already caused devastation in the Philippines. Emergency response teams were dispatched yesterday to the north-eastern regions, where more than 340,000 people have been affected by severe flooding following Vamco that killed at least 33 people across the country, disaster agencies said.

Twenty of the deaths were recorded in the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela and Nueva Vizcaya on Luzon island, which have become the focus of rescue efforts.

Cagayan governor Manuel Mamba said nine people perished when massive floods and Vamco hit the province earlier last week. Among the victims was a rescue worker who was electrocuted.

  • > 400k

    Number of homes in Vietnam damaged or destroyed owing to a series of storms that have hit central parts of the country over the past six weeks, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

    > 150k

    Number of Vietnamese people at immediate risk of food shortages because of these storms.

    > 340k

    Number of people in north-east Philippines affected by Typhoon Vamco.

"No typhoon signal was raised in Cagayan due to Typhoon Ulysses, but the water dumped by the typhoon in Isabela, Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, Kalinga and Ifugao flowed to our province," said Mr Mamba, using the local name of Vamco.

Hundreds of people were trapped on rooftops in the hardest hit areas along the Cagayan River, with rescuers unable to reach them due to the strong current, said the spokesman for the regional Office of Civil Defence.

Vast swathes of the region were under water in what officials have described as the worst flooding in living memory.

The release of water from Magat dam in Luzon, home to Manila, has exacerbated the impact. The dam was forced to open seven gates to release water after reaching the spilling level brought about by rain dumped by the typhoon.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday ordered the creation of an inter-agency task force to streamline the government's response to regions hit by Vamco.

Meanwhile, China's national observatory yesterday renewed a blue alert for Vamco, which is expected to bring downpours and strong winds to parts of the country's southern coastal areas, forcing the province of Hainan to suspend all ferry services in the Qiongzhou Strait.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA, PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 15, 2020, with the headline 'Thousands flee as Typhoon Vamco heads for Vietnam'. Print Edition | Subscribe