DANANG: More than 200,000 people in Vietnam took refuge in shelters Tuesday as Super Typhoon Noru barrelled towards its central coast, with forecasters predicting the storm would be one of the biggest to hit the country.
Almost half of Vietnam’s airports have been shut, schools and offices across several provinces -- including in the busy city of Danang -- were closed and residents rushed to find shelter before the expected arrival of the typhoon on Wednesday.
After slamming into the Philippines earlier this week, where it killed six people, Noru is predicted to make landfall as a super typhoon before 11 am (0400 GMT) and then subside to a severe typhoon as it makes its way inland.
Vietnam’s flood and storm control authority said wind speeds would reach 160 kilometres per hour (100 miles per hour), equalling Typhoon Xangsane -- which hit Danang in 2006 and killed 76 people.
Authorities said they have evacuated nearly 260,000 people from their homes, including in the popular tourist city of Hoi An, where residents were brought to a primary school.
“I wanted to leave. My house is not very strong. I am afraid its roof might be blown away when the typhoon hits,“ Huynh Mua told AFP, clutching a plastic bag full of clothes, a blanket and several packets of instant noodles.
Three hundred houses in the coastal province of Quang Tri had their roofs blown off late Tuesday as winds began picking up speed. In nearby Hue, trees were blown to the ground.
In Danang, Vietnam’s third-biggest city, all shops and hotels were closed, while residents were banned from going out on the streets.
The defence ministry has mobilised around 40,000 soldiers and 200,000 militia members, equipped with armoured vehicles and boats in preparation for rescue and relief operations, state media said.
According to data from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, located in Hawaii, Noru will be only the sixth major typhoon to hit Vietnam since 1945.
Noru hit the Philippines’ Luzon island on Sunday and Monday, toppling trees, knocking out power and flooding low-lying communities.
Five rescuers were killed after being sent to help flooded residents, while another man died after he was hit by a landslide. Officials estimate about $2.4 million worth of crops were damaged.-AFP