Super typhoon Haiyan to hit central Vietnam Sunday morning

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An illustration of typhoon Haiyan's progress in 11:30 a.m. report. Photo courtesy of National Center for Hydro Meteorological Forecasting

Super typhoon Haiyan, which meteorologists have dubbed the strongest this year and even one of the most powerful ever recorded in the world's history, is likely to hit Vietnam's central provinces Sunday morning.

The category 5 typhoon entered the East Sea, internationally known as South China Sea, Friday evening, after leaving a trail of destruction in central Philippines early Friday.

At least 100 people in the Philippines have been reportedly killed in the disaster, although Reuters said the national disaster agency has not confirmed the death toll.

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According to a report by Vietnam's National Center for Hydro Meteorological Forecasting at 11:30 a.m., the storm was centered at a site 220 km north-northeast of Song Tu Tay Island (or Southwest Cay) in the Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago at 10 a.m.

The center estimates that maximum sustained winds of 150-163 kilometers per hour and gust more than level 17 (202-220 km per hour) are likely near the eye of the storm.

Haiyan will go west-northwest in the next 24 hours at a speed of 30-35 km per hour. It will center in the sea areas of provinces from Quang Ngai to Quang Tri, with maximum sustained winds of up to 166 km per hour and gusts of up to 220 km per hour at 10 a.m. Sunday.

It will go along coastal central provinces and cities at a speed of 25-30 km an hour in the next one to two days from now, and have its center in the north-central provinces at 10 a.m. Monday, the center predicts. It will then move northward at a speed of 15 km an hour and weaken to a tropical depression in two to three days now.

Bui Minh Tang, the center's director, said Friday there is a high possibility that this is the strongest storm that has ever entered the East Sea and made landfall in Vietnam, though he had earlier estimated that it would be the strongest storm that has hit Vietnam in the last decade.

There are likely gusts of up to 220 km per hour from Quang Ngai to Quang Binh, while the neighboring Binh Dinh, Ha Tinh, Khanh Hoa, Nghe An, Phu Yen, and Thanh Hoa provinces also will have winds of up to 133 km per hour.

He said the coastal provinces from Nghe An to Quang Ngai and their nearby islands are likely to see waves 5-8 meters high, and could even reach 10 meters near the storm's eye.

The storm will bring heavy rains from Ha Tinh to Khanh Hoa, and then spread to northern Central Highlands and northern Vietnam, he said.

He said all precautions taken for the storm must be completed before 9 p.m. Saturday.

Haiyan is the 14th that has entered East Sea this year. A tropical depression hit land Wednesday evening, causing rains that day and the next day in south-central and southern Vietnam.

It had not developed into a storm as expected, but Tang was quoted by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper as saying that the authorities still considered it the 13th storm this year.

Precautions

Cao Duc Phat, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and head of the Central Steering Committee for Flood and Storm Control, said authorities in central Vietnam have to instruct boats to soon return to shore or leave dangerous areas, as well as ask fishers not to stay on boats.

He also ordered authorities from Thua Thien-Hue to Quang Ngai and northern Binh Dinh to evacuate all residents in the coastal areas before 7 p.m. Saturday.

Central Vietnam authorities also have to prepare plans to discharge water from local reservoirs after heavy rains but make sure the release will not flood lower areas, he said.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung Friday ordered authorities from Thanh Hoa to the southernmost province of Ca Mau to prohibit boats from going out to sea.

From Saturday, schools in the affected region have to close; offices must have plans in place to protect their properties; and police and military forces must prepare plans for search and rescue operations as well as traffic regulation.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Friday proposed to China, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines that the neighboring countries shelter Vietnamese boats which cannot return home during storm.

 It also ordered Vietnam embassies in those countries to keep themselves updated with the storm's progress and cooperate with the countries' authorities in providing timely help to Vietnamese fishermen. 

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