HA TINH, Vietnam (Reuters) - A typhoon tore a destructive path across central Vietnam on Friday, flooding hundreds of thousands of homes, whipping off roofs and knocking out power in the country’s most powerful storm in years.
Four people were killed, more than 5,000 houses were submerged, 19 collapsed and nearly 24,000 houses in Ha Tinh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue provinces were damaged, the disaster agency said in a report.
Ha Tinh and Quang Binh provinces bore the brunt of Typhoon Doksuri and power cuts were widespread after winds brought down or damaged thousands of electricity poles, trees and billboards. A television tower in Ha Tinh province collapsed.
“There has never been a storm of level nine or 11 that lasted for eight hours straight like this one, causing quite large damage,” agriculture minister Nguyen Xuan Cuong told state-run Vietnam Television.
More than 116,000 people had been evacuated from Vietnam’s densely populated coastal strip in preparation for Doksuri. Winds exceeded 130 km (80 miles) per hour and were expected to weaken as the storm heads to Laos.
“It looks terrible, worse than war time,” said Tran Thi Hong, principal of the Ky Xuan kindergarten in Ha Tinh province, which lost its entire roof. “I could just cry, it took us so long to build this school,” she said.
Four fishing boats sank in Quang Ngai province, the disaster committee report said. Many fishermen had dragged their small wooden boats into the streets of coastal towns to try to stop them from being carried away.
Around 40 flights were canceled between the capital, Hanoi, in northern Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh City, the commercial hub in the south.
The eye of the storm skirted Vietnam’s most important coffee growing areas and the rains it brought were largely seen as beneficial to the trees, coffee traders said. Rice farmers had rushed to gather in what they could before Doksuri struck.
Vietnam often suffers from destructive storms. Floods in northern Vietnam killed at least 26 people and washed away hundreds of homes in August. Last year, more than 200 people were killed in storms.
Additional reporting by Mai Nguyen and Mi Nguyen; Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Nick Macfie