Thousands evacuate as Vietnam braces for storm

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam called its fishermen ashore and began evacuating 80,000 people from high-risk areas as a tropical storm churned toward the country’s southern coast Monday.

Weather forecasters said Tropical Storm Noul, packing winds of 74 kilometers (46 miles) per hour, was expected to make landfall later Monday between the provinces of Ninh Thuan and Khanh Hoa.

Hanoi officials urged provincial authorities to take urgent measures to minimize damages and said nearly 80,0000 people needed to be evacuated, according to the government Web site.

More than 24,500 fishing trawlers with 133,000 fishermen had been called ashore ahead of the storm, the government said.

In Khanh Hoa, emergency workers had begun evacuating thousands of residents from coastal areas to higher ground, said provincial disaster official Nguyen Xuan Quang.

Khanh Hoa, whose capital is the tourist city of Nha Trang, is about 450 kilometers (280 miles) north of Ho Chi Minh City.

About 2,000 residents on an island off the coast of the southern commercial center of Ho Chi Minh City were being evacuated, said Vice Agriculture Minister Dao Xuan Hoc.

Weather forecasters initially predicted that the storm would hit Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s largest city, and then cut across the vast Mekong River Delta. That region is especially vulnerable to storm damage, with its dense population and makeshift houses.

But later in the day, the storm changed course, forecasters said.

Officials warned that heavy rains could worsen flooding in Ho Chi Minh City, parts of which have been inundated by surging tides over the last week.

Earlier this month, 94 people died in floods that inundated the capital, Hanoi, and other provinces in the country’s northern and central regions.

Vietnam is prone to floods, which kill hundreds each year.

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