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Vietnam, China lashed by tropical storm
by Staff Writers
Hanoi (AFP) Sept 30, 2011

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 had maximum sustained winds of 100 miles (160 kilometers) per hour and was moving north-northwest at a speed of almost nine miles an hour.

The NHC said Bermuda would face tropical storm-force winds on Saturday when the eye of the storm passes to the east of the island, but Ophelia is expected to continue north and steer well clear of the US coastline.

Hurricane Irene, the most severe of the previous three hurricanes, unleashed deadly floods and storm surges in the eastern United States.

Thousands of people in Vietnam sheltered from a powerful tropical storm that lashed its northern coast on Friday after slamming into southeast China and killing 43 people in the Philippines.

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.

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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Flood-ravaged Philippines braces for new typhoon
Candaba, Philippines (AFP) Sept 30, 2011 - Philippine authorities warned Friday that at least a million people living in flooded villages and farmland were set to be pounded by more devastating rain from a second typhoon.

Typhoon Nesat pummelled the main island of Luzon on Tuesday, killing at least 43 people and leaving 30 others missing as it dumped the biggest single-day volume of rain on the disaster-weary country this year.

Large areas remain flooded with some villages enduring water nearly two storeys high, and the government said another typhoon was expected to dump just as much rain as Nesat over the same areas this weekend.

"You must help us warn these people to move to higher ground," National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management chief Benito Ramos told AFP.

"The problem is, the floodwaters from Nesat have not ebbed. Water-soaked soil is prone to landslides and flash floods."

The second typhoon, named Nalgae, was due to hit Luzon, home to 48 million people, on Saturday with peak winds of 140 kilometres (80 miles) an hour, the state weather service said.

Ramos said churches, schools and gymnasiums were being prepared for people to seek refuge.

About 160,000 flood victims were already in state-run evacuation camps due to Nesat, with at least one million people across Luzon affected, he said.

But many of those affected people remained in the flooded areas, choosing a soaked existence in their homes with their families and friends over crowded, poorly equipped evacuation centres.

The Philippines is hit by an average of 20 major storms a year and those living in the flat, farming plains of Luzon are used to dealing with floods each year as torrents of water run down from the mountains.

Residents of Candaba, a farming town in central Luzon about two hours' drive north of Manila, also told AFP they had little choice but to remain in their flooded homes as they could not afford to go elsewhere.

"We won't be fleeing to another town because that costs a lot of money, which we do not have," said Eddie Martin, a truck driver who has not been paid in a week because his vehicle could not pass through the flooded roads.

The Philippines has one of the worst poverty rates in Asia, with about a quarter of the population living on a dollar a day or less, according to government figures.

President Benigno Aquino issued a statement praising the preparation efforts, but said more needed to be done to convince people living in danger zones to seek shelter before the typhoon struck.

"Let me emphasise, we need to move all those in danger," Aquino said.

"In particular, let us help each other persuade fisherfolks and residents of coastal, low-lying and mountainous areas to be on alert and be extra cautious."

Coast guard commandant Admiral Ramon Liwag said that rescue teams had stayed in place near where they had pulled people from rooftops earlier this week in case they were needed again.

"We have teams in place and we will be monitoring the situation closely over the next few hours," Liwag told AFP, stressing there were no rescue operations on Friday.

Nesat also shut down Manila on Tuesday, with the vast rain band of the typhoon reaching the sprawling city of 12 million people.

However the new typhoon was expected to have a smaller footprint and Manila should be spared the worst of the weekend weather, forecaster Sonny Pajarillo told AFP.

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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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