Typhoon Tembin entered the East Sea, known internationally as the South China Sea, late Saturday and became the 16th tropical storm to hit the waters this year.
“16 is a record number of storms to enter the East Sea in a year,” said Hoang Duc Cuong, director of the National Center for Hydrometeorological Forecasting.
According to both national and international forecasts, Typhoon Tembin will be at its strongest when it hits the Spratly Islands on Sunday afternoon, with wind speeds over 130kph (81mph).
The storm is approaching southern Vietnam at a speed of 25kph, and is forecast to hit provinces from Ba Ria – Vung Tau to Ca Mau carrying winds of around 90kph late night, December 25.
“After entering Ca Mau Province, the storm will hit western Vietnamese waters with wind speeds remaining unchanged,” Cuong added.
Provinces and towns including Ba Ria – Vung Tau, Tien Giang, Ben Tre, Tra Vinh, Soc Trang, Bac Lieu, Ca Mai, Kien Giang and HCMC are preparing for mass evacuations, after Tembin ravaged through the Philippines, killing at least 182 people.
The changes in the storm’s direction can have major impacts on the most vulnerable areas, said Hoang Van Thang, deputy minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The western coast includes populous areas like Phu Quoc and Nam Du islands, which are heavily reliant on fishing and vulnerable to landslides.
Thang also ordered local authorities to forcefully evacuate communities living in boats and makeshift houses in the Mekong Delta.
“We can consider material damages after the typhoon passes, but we must not allow any human casualties due to late evacuation,” Thang added.
Typhoon Tembin is changing its direction and heading towards Ca Mau. Source: National Committee for Search and Rescue
Southern Vietnam is rarely hit by stormy weather, but the memory of Typhoon Linda, which struck 20 years ago leaving more than 3,000 people dead or missing, lingers on. The storm is considered one of the worst disasters to hit Vietnam in the past century.
Tran Quang Hoai, director of the National Department of Natural Disasters Prevention and Control, said the region’s lack of experience will increase risks with the coming typhoon.
Hoai said there could be a similar scenario to Typhoon Damrey, which hit the usually gentle Nha Trang in the central coast and its neighbors in November, leaving 108 people dead or missing and causing $1 billion in damage. Officials have blamed the heavy destruction on the near-total lack of experience and preparation.
Flooding and storms left 390 people dead or missing in Vietnam in the first 11 months of the year, and caused damage worth around VND52.2 trillion ($2.34 billion), according to the General Statistics Office.
The toll surpassed last year’s losses, when disasters killed 264 people and caused nearly VND40 trillion ($1.75 billion) in damage.