by Staff Writers
Miami (AFP) Sept 30, 2011
Hurricane Ophelia, churning off the coast of Bermuda, gathered strength Friday, becoming a category 3 storm packing winds of some 115 miles (185 kilometers) an hour, US weather experts said.
Ophelia is now the fourth hurricane and the third "major hurricane" of the Atlantic season, which lasts until the end of the November, but is not expected to make landfall, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said.
It said in a statement, however, that tropical storm force winds could lash Bermuda late Saturday and warned "large swells created by Ophelia will cause hazardous surf conditions along the south shore beaches."
On Friday, Ophelia was some 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) off Bermuda and moving at about 12 miles an hour (9 kilometers) heading north-northwest.
It was predicted to arc northwards off the eastern coast of the United States and head for Canada but remain out to sea, finally petering out into a tropical storm on Monday.
Hurricane Irene, the most severe of the previous three hurricanes, unleashed deadly floods and storm surges in the eastern United States.
Vietnam, China lashed by tropical storm
Schools shut and flights were cancelled ahead of the storm, which weakened from a typhoon after devastating the Philippines' main island of Luzon earlier in the week.
Beijing, which had issued its first red typhoon alert of the year, downgraded Nesat to a "strong tropical storm" which slowed at sea after forcing 300,000 people to evacuate on the tourist island of Hainan.
Gale force winds and torrential rain continued to lash China's southern coast on Friday.
High winds buffeted Hanoi and surrounding northeastern provinces, where Nesat made landfall in the afternoon at speeds of 62-88 kilometres an hour (38-55 miles per hour), the weather bureau said.
More than 70,000 residents in the port city of Haiphong and 7,000 others in coastal Nam Dinh province sheltered in more secure locations, state television reported.
"Some of the families moved to safer areas within their house compounds, or moved completely to other places. They have made good preparations and we are not worried about them," Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai said during an inspection of storm preparations in the city.
"So far, according to initial information from local authorities, there are no reports of victims," said Pham Dinh Hoa, director of the flood and storm department in Quang Ninh province adjacent to China.
"The material losses are not significant. We have recorded 122 damaged houses and more than 400 trees down."
About 39,000 fishing boats were ordered to shore and all schools in Haiphong and neighbouring Quang Ninh closed, the national flood and storm committee said.
Flag carrier Vietnam Airlines announced the cancellation of all flights from Haiphong, the country's third-largest city.
Voice of Vietnam radio said the storm had visibly weakened after reaching land, but warned of a landslide risk in several northern provinces.
On China's Hainan island Thursday, authorities called more than 27,000 boats back to port, suspended flight and ferry services and closed schools, but there were no reports of injuries or deaths.
Chinese state media said the storm caused substantial damage, with direct economic losses of more than 500 million yuan ($78 million) in one Hainan city alone.
In Hong Kong, life was returning to normal after the city was shut down by the typhoon on Thursday. Three people were reported injured by falling scaffolding and tree branches.
In the Philippines, tens of thousands of people battled neck-deep floodwaters after Nesat's deadly path across Luzon.
The government there said nearly a million people had been affected by the flooding and that another typhoon, Nalgae, was forecast to dump more rain across the main island of Luzon from Saturday.
"Our problem is the floodwaters have yet to be flushed out to sea and rains dumped on nearby mountains are still on their way down to the plains," said Science Undersecretary Graciano Yumul.
"When Nalgae strikes it will suck the wet southwest monsoons into these same areas and any fresh rains are bound to worsen the flooding."
Severe floods have also devastated swathes of Southeast Asia.
Eight people, mostly children, were reported dead in Vietnam's southern Mekong Delta provinces where thousands of hectares (acres) of rice paddy have been inundated.
Unusually severe monsoon rains have killed almost 190 people in Thailand over the past two months and claimed more than 100 lives in Cambodia.
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Hurricane Ophelia strengthens in Atlantic
Miami (AFP) Sept 30, 2011
Hurricane Ophelia strengthened to a category two storm early Friday and was expected to bring heavy winds and rain to the Atlantic island of Bermuda, US forecasters said. Ophelia, the fourth hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic season, was located 695 miles (1,120 kilometers) south-southeast of Bermuda, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in its 0900 GMT advisory. The storm ha ... read more
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