Vietnam typhoon death toll climbs to 61 ahead of Apec summit

A flooded street in Hoi An yesterday. The spouses of world leaders who will attend the Apec summit in nearby Danang were set to visit the Unesco World Heritage Site later this week, but it is unclear whether the visit will proceed.
A flooded street in Hoi An yesterday. The spouses of world leaders who will attend the Apec summit in nearby Danang were set to visit the Unesco World Heritage Site later this week, but it is unclear whether the visit will proceed.PHOTO: REUTERS

HOI AN (Vietnam) • At least 61 people have died after Typhoon Damrey tore through central Vietnam, disaster officials said yesterday, as heavy flooding cast doubt on a planned retreat for Apec leaders' spouses at the ancient town of Hoi An.

The weather system hit just days before Vietnam welcomes world leaders to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Danang, and has left several areas totally submerged in the worst flooding in years.

While Danang itself has not been seriously affected, heavy flooding has hit Hoi An, a Unesco World Heritage Site known for its unique blend of buildings, some dating back to the 15th century.

Large swathes of four central and southern provinces were submerged yesterday, officials said, with the death toll likely to rise further as the search for at least 28 missing people got under way.

"We are facing a major threat in all the affected areas. All the lakes and rivers are full," Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong said at an emergency meeting on Sunday, according to the state-controlled VNExpress. He added that flood levels were close to surpassing records set in 1997.

Some 30,000 people were evacuated and around 116,000 properties were submerged or damaged after the typhoon hit last Saturday. Restaurants and hotels in Hoi An were inundated with water, and tourists were evacuated from hotels on boats.

The spouses of world leaders who will attend the Apec summit in nearby Danang were set to visit the city later this week. There has been no word yet on whether the visit will go ahead. US President Donald Trump will attend the Apec summit this week, along with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Danang was mostly spared the storm's destruction, with reports of heavy rain and high winds, but no major flooding.

Vietnam has been battered by a series of storms this year. Flooding and landslides in the northern and central regions killed more than 70 people last month.

In September, Typhoon Doksuri ripped central Vietnam, killing 11 people and decimating communities across several provinces.

Natural disasters have killed more than 13,000 people and caused more than US$6.4 billion (S$8.7 billion) in property damage over the past 20 years in Vietnam.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2017, with the headline 'Vietnam typhoon death toll climbs to 61 ahead of Apec summit'. Print Edition | Subscribe