Typhoon Shifts Near Philippines, Weakens in Vietnam

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=a5T9nmzKnIfU&refer=home 

By Clarissa Batino and Nguyen Dieu Tu Uyen

Nov. 24 (Bloomberg) — Typhoon Mitag, expected to slam into the Philippines’ main island of Luzon tomorrow evening, shifted course and prompted a new round of evacuations today, while a typhoon nearing Vietnam weakened to a tropical storm.

Mitag, the second cyclone in a week to threaten the Philippines with floods and landslides, shifted direction and will hit the northeastern province of Aurora and Isabela instead of the eastern region of Bicol, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Service Administration said today on its Web site.

The eye of Mitag, the 24th storm of the east Pacific cyclone season, had winds of 175 kilometers (109 miles) per hour and gusts up to 212 kilometers per hour, the U.S. Navy Joint Typhoon Warning Center said.

The typhoon may strengthen further before it lands in the area of Aurora and Isabela tomorrow, Philippine Atmospheric Director Prisco Nilo told reporters today. Philippine President Gloria Arroyo today ordered the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from the northeastern province during a televised briefing with the National Disaster Coordinating Council.

Typhoon Mitag continues to move west northwest toward the Philippines and was 527 kilometers east of Manila at 8 a.m. local time, compared with 583 kilometers six hours earlier. It was moving at 7 kilometers per hour.

Mitag has maintained its strength and remained almost stationary in the past six hours, Philippine Atmospheric advised as of 5 p.m. in Manila. It is moving “very slow,” Philippine Atmospheric’s Nilo said.

Evacuations

The Philippine government had evacuated 250,000 in Bicol where Mitag was initially forecast to hit. Close to 100,000 people in the coastal areas and near mountain slopes of Aurora and Isabela are being evacuated, National Disaster spokesman Anthony Golez told reporters today.

Typhoon Hagibis nearing Vietnam was downgraded to a tropical storm and has turned away from the country’s southern coast. Hagibis, which crossed the Philippines as a tropical storm earlier this week, killing 13 people, changed direction in the South China Sea.

Vietnam stopped evacuating 300,000 people after weather reports showed the storm had returned to sea, Bui Nguyen Hong, chief administrator of the national steering board for flood and storm control, said in a telephone interview from Khanh Hoa, one of the southern provinces expected to be hit by the storm.

About 45,000 fishing boats with 245,000 fishermen have been called back, the Rescue and Relief Office of Vietnam’s Ministry of Defense said in its latest report today. More than 2,200 soldiers have been assigned and five military helicopters are waiting at the airport of coastal city Danang. Another 10 are stationed at Ho Chi Minh City airport.

Coffee Harvest

While the coastal provinces have almost no coffee plantations, rains may cause disruption to harvests in the central highlands, according to Van Thanh Huy, chairman of the Vietnam Coffee and Cocoa Association.

“Coffee production may be cut since the rains can make ripe beans shed from the plants,” Huy said today by telephone from Dak Lak province, the main coffee-growing area of Vietnam. “If the rain lasts too long, it may also affect the quality of the crop, because farmers have to leave the coffee they harvest outside to dry.”

Vietnam’s oilfields in the area affected by the storm have reduced the number of staff to the minimum needed to keep production going, said Tran Van Hoi, deputy director general of Vietsovpetro, a joint venture between Vietnam Oil & Gas Group and OAO Zarubezhneft. Hoi spoke from Ba Ria-Vung Tau, which is the center of the oil industry in Vietnam, Southeast Asia’s third- biggest producer.

`My Eyes’

Cyclones frequently make landfall in the two countries during the northern hemisphere’s summer season. Mitag is the third storm in a month to head to the Philippines, and Vietnam is hit by an average of seven storms a year.

Mitag is a woman’s name meaning “my eyes” in Yapese, one of the four languages of the Micronesian islands in the Pacific, according to the Web site of the Hong Kong Observatory, which lists cyclone names in use in the Pacific.

Hagibis, which means “swift” in Tagalog, the main language of the Philippines, was about 138 kilometers east of Nha Trang, moving westward at 12 kilometers per hour. Its has winds of 111 kilometers per hour and gusts of 138 kilometers per hour, according to the Warning Center.

At least 67 people died from floods and landslides caused by Typhoon Lekima, which struck Vietnam last month with winds of 120 kilometers per hour. A year ago, typhoon Durian smashed into the Philippines’ Bicol region where more than 400 were either killed or went missing.

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