Typhoon Tembin entered the East Sea, known internationally as the South China Sea, late Saturday and is forecast to hit Vietnam’s Mekong Delta on Monday night.
Tembin is similar in strength to Typhoon Linda, which struck the region 20 years ago, leaving more than 3,000 people dead or missing.
As of 5 a.m. Monday, the typhoon was 330km (105 miles) east of Con Dao Island, with wind speeds at 135kph (84mph).
The typhoon 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 100kph late night, December 25.
After making landfall, the typhoon is forecast to move west at a speed of 20-25kph. By 4 p.m. on December 26, Tembin will be 100km west of Tho Chu (Kien Giang Province), with maximum wind speeds of 75kph. Afterwards, it will weaken into a tropical depression ofer the Gulf of Thailand.
Heavy downpours are forecast for coastal areas south of Quang Ngai Province for Monday and Tuesday, with the Mekong Delta experiencing up to 150mm of rain.
Local authorities evacuate residents in preparation for a storm that hit Saigon in November. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen
At a teleconference on Sunday, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc instructed the southern provinces to be cautious and focus on preparing for the coming storm.
“The strong storm combined with high tide could cause disastrous damage if we’re not cautious,” Phuc said.
He instructed provinces to mobilize soldiers, police officers and young people to help reinforce buildings and evacuate residents from dangerous areas while ensuring the safety of workers, officers and oil rigs.
“All unnecessary meetings must be canceled to focus on dealing with the storm,” Phuc said.
Provinces and towns including Ba Ria – Vung Tau, Tien Giang, Ben Tre, Tra Vinh, Soc Trang, Bac Lieu, Ca Mau, Kien Giang and HCMC are preparing for mass evacuations.
Bac Lieu alone is evacuating about 350,000 people, while Ca Mau is evacuating nearly 100,000, Ba Ria-Vung Tau 78,000 and Tien Giang 40,000.
In Ben Tre, where the storm is expected to make landfall, authorities are evacuating about 20,000 households living along the coast. Meanwhile Ho Chi Minh City is also evacuating 5,000 people in the coastal Can Gio District.
Many provinces have instructed all students and workers to stay at home except for disaster response personnel. All ships at sea are also required to steer to safety.
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
Before entering Vietnamese waters, Typhoon Tembin had already wreaked havoc in the Philippines, killing more than 200 people.
Southern Vietnam is rarely hit by stormy weather, but the memory of Typhoon Linda, which is considered one of the worst disasters to hit Vietnam in the past century, lingers on.
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.