DANANG, Vietnam — Typhoon Ketsana slammed into Vietnam Tuesday killing at least 31 people in floods and landslides and causing almost 170,000 to flee their homes, officials said.
The death toll in Vietnam added to at least 246 who died in the Philippines when Ketsana, classed at that stage as a weaker tropical storm, devastated Manila at the weekend.
Flood and storm control committee officials said Tuesday night that 31 people had died, including 13 in Kon Tum, a mountainous inland province.
Most victims there died because of landslides and the collapse of their houses in the vicious winds and heavy rains, Le Trong Chien, a Kon Tum official in charge of storm relief, said earlier.
The typhoon made landfall around 0700 GMT about 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of Vietnam's fourth-largest city, Danang, the national flood and storm committee said.
"What worries us is that the flooding could worsen because of heavy rain raising water levels in the rivers, but in particular rising sea water, which threatens coastal residents," said Duong Van Ngoc, vice-president of Phu Vang district in Thua Thien-Hue province.
Flooding hit parts of Danang as well as Hue, the former capital and a UNESCO World Heritage site, where residents used small wooden and steel boats to move around, an AFP reporter witnessed.
Fallen trees littered the streets and the Perfume River, which winds through the ancient city, had risen considerably.
"My house is now flooded to my knees," said one resident, out collecting wood from toppled trees that he said he would use for cooking.
"We have enough instant noodles," he said.
In some places, water had come within 10 or 15 centimetres (four to six inches) of the country's north-south railway line, AFP observed.
Up to 50 centimetres of rain had fallen, said Nguyen Ngoc Thien, president of the Thua Thien-Hue People's Committee, the communist local government, speaking on state television.
The front doors of many homes were fortified with wood, and roofs were protected with sandbags. Few people were on the streets.
"We are preparing to supply the evacuees with food and water for one month," Thien said.
The defence ministry said 10,000 troops have been mobilised for the storm-fighting effort.
"We want the defence ministry to send armoured vehicles or trucks that can go in water to help people because we don't have enough boats," said the chairman of the People's Committee in Kon Tum.
"Several people are now sitting on top of their houses or on top of trees. We cannot reach them."
Military helicopters may be called to join the rescue effort, Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai said.
Ketsana hit the coast between the two fishing provinces of Quang Nam and Quang Ngai, an official from the flood and storm committee said. Quang Nam is home to another World Heritage site, Hoi An town.
The area is also home to Vietnam's first oil refinery which opened in February and survived undamaged, said Fabien Dousson, a French engineer working there.
"The zone around the refinery is devastated. Trees have fallen. There are terrible floods," he said.
Authorities had lost contact with Ly Son, an island in the South China Sea, state television reported.
Danang and other areas were without power.
The flood and storm control committee said 168,585 people in six coastal provinces had been evacuated.
They were moved to schools, military camps and newly built high-rise apartments, Voice of Vietnam radio reported.
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