November 5, 1997 in Nation/World

Typhoon Batters Southern Vietnam Fierce Storm Linda Kills 120; 2,000 Still Unaccounted For

Ian Stewart Associated Press
 

Mounds of splintered timber and twisted sheets of steel were all that remained of the coastal town of Song Doc on Tuesday, a day after Typhoon Linda cut a vicious swath through southern Vietnam.

While 120 people have been confirmed dead, as many as 1,000 people were aboard 1,300 fishing boats that sank in the intense rain and winds and were presumed dead.

Rescue workers said that another 1,000-plus people were still unaccounted for.

Linda, the worst typhoon to hit southern Vietnam this century, laid waste to Song Doc and other communities throughout Ca Mau and Kien Giang provinces with winds gusting to more than 80 mph.

In Ca Mau, 225 miles south of Ho Chi Minh City, damage totaled at least $85 million - about a third of the province’s annual gross domestic product. About 117,000 homes were either damaged or destroyed.

“When the storm hit, it made the strangest sound,” said Than Huu Khang, 34, a fisherman. “It was like a howling animal.”

Rain still fell on him as he sat on his bed in a now-roofless thatch hut.

“You can see the damage for yourself,” said Ca Mau’s vice governor, Le Kong Nghiep. He called for both domestic and international disaster aid.

Along National Highway No. 1, which ends in Ca Mau town, trees were toppled and houses flattened. Corrugated sheet metal roofing was strewn across the road, and one sheet dangled from telephone lines.

Residents whose homes were partially damaged laid palm leaves on their dwellings as makeshift roofs. Those whose homes were destroyed just sifted through the debris looking for belongings.

In Kien Giang province, damage was estimated at $60 million. In the town of Bac Lieu, 11,000 homes were destroyed. Most were flimsy and were no match for the powerful winds.

Officials said most schools in the region were either damaged or destroyed, as were many clinics.

The dozens of fishing villages that dot Ca Mau’s coastline were unprepared for the storm, which made rescue and recovery efforts difficult. Some were buried by floodwaters while their power lines were cut, local authorities said.

It was the first time since 1922 that Ca Mau had been hit by a major storm, said Vo Thien Hoang, acting director of the Flood and Storm Control Department.

Linda also hit four provinces in southern Thailand on Monday, killing three people. Thailand’s Interior Ministry said 13 people were injured and more than 30 fishing vessels capsized.

More than 100 houses were damaged in Prachuab Khirikan province, they said. Damage to agricultural areas was also reported, and in some towns, electricity was cut off. There were no reports of flooding.

American oil company Unocal said Tuesday it would begin returning its workers to offshore rigs. The company had evacuated more than 700 people from its offshore facilities, which were undamaged.

The typhoon passed into Burma and was heading into the Bay of Bengal on Tuesday.


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