HOI AN, Vietnam (Reuters) - Vietnam’s central provinces battled the biggest floods in decades on Wednesday caused by a powerful typhoon that swept into the country after wreaking havoc in the Philippines.
Government reports said torrential rains from Typhoon Ketsana, which swept into Vietnam late on Tuesday, killed 40 people and left 10 missing from floods and landslides in nine coastal and central highland provinces.
Ketsana hit the Philippines at the weekend, killing 246 people, leaving another 42 missing, and causing damages totaling more than $100 million, officials said.
Weather reports said that by late on Wednesday rivers in Vietnam’s Quang Nam province could reach a level last seen in 1964.
The typhoon spared most of Daklak, Vietnam’s top coffee-growing province, and officials were still assessing coffee and rubber trees in Gia Lai, the third-largest coffee grower, state-run Vietnam Television said.
Floodwaters had submerging some old houses in Quang Nam’s Hoi An city, a UNESCO-recognized World Heritage site, where people had to move around by boat.
“We have had storms or flooding in the past, but this time we have both of them,” Le Xuan Toan, a 45-year-old Hoi An resident, told Reuters while sitting on the roof of his submerged house.
Foreign tourists who took shelter in state buildings in Hoi An when the typhoon made landfall returned to hotels on Wednesday and some helped clean up the streets.
Floods from the typhoon damaged or destroyed 294,000 homes in central Vietnam. Around 357,000 people in 10 provinces were evacuated.
Sea waves threw several ships onshore in the port city of Danang, a Reuters witness said.
The region hit by Ketsana lies far north of Vietnam’s Mekong Delta rice basket. The 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 be affected, traders said.
Ketsana had weakened to a tropical storm after moving into Laos and Cambodia on Tuesday night, weather forecasters said.
Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai urged the authorities to quickly resume power supplies to the typhoon-hit region, including Quang Ngai province, where Vietnam’s first oil refinery, Dung Quat, was due to reopen on Wednesday after an outage halted the plant’s test runs last month.
The 140,000 barrel per day plant will resume operations later on Wednesday as scheduled after repairs, a Petrovietnam official said, adding the typhoon had not damaged the facility.
The storm has become a focus of marathon climate talks in Bangkok this week, with developing nations and green groups saying it is an example of the type of climate disaster poor nations could face in a warmer world.
“Ketsana is clearly a manifestation of the consequences of global inaction in addressing the immediate impacts of creeping climate change,” chief Philippine climate negotiator Heherson Alvarez told reporters.
He said rich nations must act urgently “to moderate these storms and spare the whole world from the impoverishing and devastating impacts of climate change.”
Residents in Manila have been scathing in their criticism of the government’s disaster response in the crowded city of 15 million where sewers are notoriously blocked by rubbish.
Ketsana dumped more than a month’s worth of average rainfall on Manila and surrounding areas, forcing 375,000 out of their homes and destroying more than 180,000 tonnes of paddy rice.
Philippine lawmakers were set to pass a supplementary budget for 2009 of about 10 billion pesos ($211 million) for relief, recovery and rehabilitation efforts, Defense secretary Gilberto Teodoro 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, forecasters said.
Additional reporting by Rosemarie Francisco in MANILA and Ho Binh Minh in HANOI; Editing by Bill Tarrant