Typhoon kills 32 in Vietnam; Philippine toll at 246

HANOI/MANILA Tue Sep 29, 2009 4:06pm EDT

1 of 27. Residents wade in floodwaters caused by Typhoon Ondoy in Cainta Rizal east of Manila September 27, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Erik de Castro

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HANOI/MANILA (Reuters) - A powerful typhoon slammed into central Vietnam on Tuesday, killing 32 people and flooding towns and villages along the country's long coastline after leaving a trail of destruction in the Philippines.

The death toll in the Philippines from Typhoon Ketsana rose to 246 while the economic cost was nearly $100 million, officials said. Philippine authorities braced for another storm that could hit later this week.

Truong Ngoc Nhi, deputy chairman of the People's Committee in Vietnam's Quang Ngai province, said on state-run television the typhoon was the worst in more than three decades.

The official said workers were trying to restore electricity to the Dung Quat oil refinery, which had been due to get back on line on Wednesday after an outage shut the plant last month.

The refinery had been on track to resume operations at 65 percent capacity on Wednesday, officials had said, before reaching full capacity of 140,000 barrels per day next month. It first became operational in February.

Many areas of central Vietnam were inundated, including parts of the port city of Danang, state-run Vietnam Television (VTV) footage showed. Homes were damaged and phone lines were down.

At least 32 people were killed in seven coastal and central highland provinces, VTV said. Around 170,000 people were evacuated before the typhoon made landfall. Ketsana hit the Philippines at the weekend.

National carrier Vietnam Airlines canceled all fights to Danang and schools in the affected area were closed. The airline said it would resume service on Wednesday.

The central Vietnam region hit by Ketsana lies far north of the country's Mekong Delta rice basket. Rain dumped on the Central Highlands coffee belt could delay the start of the next coffee harvest by up to 10 days but exports would not affected, traders said.

NEW PHILIPPINE STORM

Meanwhile, forecasters said a new storm forming in the Pacific Ocean was likely to enter Philippine waters on Thursday and make landfall later on the northern island of Luzon.

Ketsana dumped more than a month's worth of average rainfall on Manila and surrounding areas in one 24-hour period. About 80 percent of the city of 15 million was flooded.

The Philippine government has come in for scathing criticism for its response, with many calling it inadequate and delayed.

Authorities estimated damage from the storm so far at around 4.69 billion pesos ($98.5 million). More than 1.9 million people were affected and 375,000 had abandoned their homes and taken refuge in evacuation centres.

The Philippine death toll could rise further once reports come in from remote areas, disaster officials said.

"For casualties, the increase will be not as great, but the damage figures may increase," Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro told a news conference.

Several foreign governments and U.N. agencies have pledged nearly $2 million in rice and relief supplies, Teodoro told reporters, adding he met lawmakers from both houses of Congress to seek emergency funds for rehabilitation work.

The typhoon destroyed more than 180,000 tons of Philippine paddy rice, or nearly 3 percent of projected fourth-quarter output, but was unlikely to prompt more imports, a senior government official said.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has called the typhoon "an extreme event that has strained our response capabilities to the limit."

Analysts say the floods have worsened the reputation of Arroyo, who has been accused of corruption and poll fraud, and that it could affect the prospects of Teodoro, the administration candidate, in the May 2010 presidential election.

(Additional reporting by Rosemarie Francisco and Manolo Serapio Jr. in Manila and Nguyen Van Vinh in Hanoi; Writing by Jerry Norton and Dean Yates; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

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