Typhoon heads for Vietnam as death toll rises

A typhoon that left dozens dead in the Philippines and two more dead in China weakened to a tropical storm today as it churned towards northern Vietnam, smashing boats in its path and lashing the region with rain and wind.

It was expected to make landfall before dark and authorities said more than 170,000 people were being prepared for evacuation.

China’s state-run Xinhua news agency said several Vietnamese ships were wrecked off islands in the South China Sea, but there was no immediate word on whether anyone had died.

Typhoon Conson, China’s first typhoon of the year, roared in from the Philippines, where the death toll continued rising today to 65, with 87 missing.

Hainan’s meteorological station said Conson was moving north-west over open water again and had downshifted into a strong tropical storm. It was expected to hit northern Vietnam by this afternoon or evening and was moving at 12 miles an hour.

Vietnamese prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung has urged authorities in 23 northern and central provinces to ban ships and fishing trawlers from sailing.

“People in coastal villages and places of high risks of flash floods and landslides in 11 mountainous districts have been told to be ready for evacuation at any time,” said Nguyen Trong Hai, a disaster official in Thanh Hoa province.

He said authorities were planning to move 137,000 people from high-risk areas in the northern province.

The national floods and storms control department said another 10,000 were being evacuated in three other northern provinces. An official in the port city of Hai Phong said 19,000 people from coastal districts were being moved, as well as 1,200 people on the island of Cat Hai.

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