Vietnam braces for Typhoon Durian, evacuates tens of thousands

Authorities evacuated tens of thousands of people in Vietnam from the path of approaching Typhoon Durian, which killed hundreds and wrought widespread destruction in the Philippines.

The national weather forecast center said the typhoon had winds of up to 133 kilometers (82 miles) per hour, and had been expected to hit south central provinces of Khanh Hoa and Ninh Thuan on Monday night.

Soldiers and police were ordered to evacuate people from high risk areas in Khanh Hoa province before noon Monday, and all schools there were closed, said provincial governor Vo Lam Phi.

Provincial disaster official Phan Van Giac said that nearly 14,000 people have been evacuated to schools, government buildings or safer areas, and that authorities are forcing from their homes another 10,000 who have so far refused to leave.

In neighboring Phu Yen province, two fishermen were killed and another was still missing after their boats capsized in strong winds, said disaster official Duong Van Huong.

He said about 4,000 people there have been evacuated to safe areas.

Just to the south in the province of Ninh Thuan province, provincial Governor Hoang Thi Ut Lan said about 2,000 residents had been evacuated, but have returned to their homes.

"Many people who were moved have decided to go back to their houses because it's still sunny," she said. "It is really a problem for us now."

Lan said authorities are trying to force them to move to safer places.

Vietnam is prone to floods and storms that kill hundreds of people each year.

In the Philippines, Typhoon Durian struck with winds reaching 165 mph (265 kilometers per hour) and torrential rains on Thursday, causing ash and boulders from the Mayon volcano on Luzon island to swamp villages around its base.

Philippine Senator Richard Gordon described the scene as a "war zone."

The Red Cross estimated on Sunday that up to 1,000 people may have died in the typhoon that unleashed walls of black mud on Philippine villages. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declared a state of national calamity, reports AP.

Hopes of finding survivors beneath the volcanic mud, debris and boulders had virtually vanished. Bodies were buried in mass graves to prevent them from decomposing in the tropical heat.

Gordon, who heads the Philippine National Red Cross, estimated the death toll could reach more than 1,000 people. But the government placed the number of dead at 425 dead, with 507 injured and 599 missing.

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