HA TINH • Typhoon Doksuri battered central Vietnam yesterday, lashing the coast with fierce winds and heavy rain as tens of thousands were evacuated and three people were reported dead in the country's worst storm in years.
Trees and billboards were blown down and thousands of homes damaged as the storm made landfall yesterday, causing flooding and power cuts across large swathes of coastline.
As the rain pounded down, stall vendor Phan Thi Lan, in the badly hit Ha Tinh province, said: "The roof of my house was blown away and all the bricks are gone.
"Here at my small shop, cakes, sweets, bread and noodles are all wet. I don't know how I'll ever have enough money to fix our house."
Roads were mostly deserted in Ha Tinh province, although emergency vehicles were seen speeding towards the coast. Elsewhere in the province, a large telecommunications tower collapsed, reported the state-run Vietnam Television (VTV).
More than 79,000 people were evacuated across the four provinces that are expected to be the worst affected, the Vietnam Disaster Management Authority said.
In the meantime, those who were still in the area were racing to find shelter.
Construction worker Nguyen Van Tai said: "I have never seen such a bad storm. The roof of my house was blown away and the houses of many of my neighbours were also damaged. I ran here to the petrol station."
Vietnam's central coast is routinely lashed by storms, especially during tropical storm season from May to October. But disaster management officials predicted that Doksuri would be the worst to hit Vietnam in a decade.
The province's deputy chairman Le Minh Ngan, speaking on VTV, said more than 5,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in Quang Binh province, where one person was also reported killed.
Another man died in Hue province when river waters swept him away after heavy rain, officials said. A third man was reported dead in Ha Tinh province, according to state media.
The storm packed wind speeds of up to 90kmh, but was expected to weaken throughout the day as it moved towards Laos, said the Vietnam National Hydro-meteorological Service.
Officials earlier said they were still moving people from their homes, and had ordered boats to come ashore.
"The number one priority is ensuring people's safety," Agriculture Minister Nguyen Xuan Cuong said on VTV.
Several flights to the area were cancelled yesterday, and most schools were closed as residents hunkered down in their homes.
"The children stayed at home and there's not much on sale in the markets. I bought enough instant noodles for the family, so I think we're good," said Nghe An resident Nguyen Thi Hue, 58.
The Vietnam Red Cross Society said it was donating US$45,000 (S$61,000) and sending essential supplies to the area, as well as volunteers to help affected residents.
The government on Thursday said it had a quarter of a million soldiers on standby, and a fleet of vehicles and boats at the ready.
Vietnam has been hit by severe weather several times this year, with about 140 people dead or missing in natural disasters since January, according to official figures.