Typhoon Lekima kills 12 in Southeast Asia

KY ANH, Vietnam (Reuters) - Typhoon Lekima lashed Vietnam and southern China with torrential rains and high winds, killing at least seven people, damaging hundreds of homes and disrupting air, sea and train travel, officials said on Thursday.

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The storm, which killed at least five people in the Philippines last weekend, swept into central Vietnam from the sea on Wednesday night, blowing roofs off houses, sinking scores of fishing vessels and grounding flights before moving to Laos.

The typhoon raised rivers to dangerous levels in Ha Tinh and Quang Binh provinces, but the damage caused was not as serious as feared.

“Thanks to good preparatory work the damage from the storm is not large,” Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai, supervising the response to the storm, told Reuters TV in Ky Anh in Ha Tinh.

Trees were felled and electricity cut off in the provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh where residents returned to clean up debris after evacuating on Wednesday.

A Vietnamese government report said many areas reported blackouts due to Lekima, the Vietnamese name of a local fruit.

The national weather centre in Hanoi warned residents to take precautions against flash floods and landslides.

It said the centre of the storm passed through Quang Binh, crossed Laos on Wednesday night and advanced into northern Thailand where it weakened into a depression.

Vietnam is hit by up to 10 storms a year, causing millions of dollars in damage and sometimes killing hundreds of people.

Lekima, the fifth storm of 2007, killed 7 people, while 3 others were missing, officials said.

The storm hit China’s beach resort of Sanya on Hainan island on Tuesday, trapping tourists and forcing the evacuation of 225,000 people. Vietnamese authorities evacuated tens of thousands of people before the storm hit.

Three cargo vessels capsized while taking shelter at a port in Quang Binh, a Reuters reporter traveling in the region said.

National carrier Vietnam Airlines and Pacific Airlines, the

second-largest airliner, cancelled flights to the central cities of Vinh, Hue and Danang on Wednesday.

The southern Chinese provinces of Guangdong and Guangxi were hit with heavy rain and strong winds.

Most shipping and rail services linking Hainan with the mainland resumed late on Wednesday, Xinhua news agency said.

Additional reporting by Nguyen Van Vinh