Asia reels from floods; Vietnam braces for storm

HANOI, Vietnam

Prolonged monsoon flooding, typhoons and storms have wreaked untold havoc in the region, leaving more than 450 people dead or missing in several countries since late July. In the Indian state of Orissa alone the damage is estimated to be worth $726 million.

After pummeling the Philippines and China this week, Typhoon Nesat was downgraded to tropical storm as it headed toward Vietnam where it was expected to make landfall later Friday with sustained wind speeds of up to 73 mph (118 kph), according to the national weather forecasting center.

Heavy rains were reported in northern and central areas, and warnings were issued for flash floods in low-lying areas and for landslides in mountainous regions. High winds whipped through the capital Hanoi's streets.

The storm had flooded streets across the southern Chinese island of Hainan on Thursday, forcing some 300,000 people to flee their homes, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

On Tuesday, Nesat bashed the Philippines, where it killed at least 43 people and left 30 people missing after causing one of the worst floods in the capital in decades.

The damage was estimated at $91 million, and preparations were already under way for Typhoon Nalgae, now headed toward the northern Philippines. It's expected to reach Category 3 strength with winds hitting up to 130 mph (210 kph), making landfall late Saturday or early Sunday.

Disaster officials in Vietnam said fish and shrimp farmers had been moved to safe areas along the northern and central coasts. Some 4,000 people, mostly the elderly, women and children, were also evacuated in three coastal districts in Nam Dinh province, said disaster official Tran Xuan Ngoc.

The storm comes on top of seasonal flooding in Vietnam's southern Mekong Delta, where eight people were killed in four provinces this week, according to the national floods and storms control department. In addition, a woman and her grandchild were killed Thursday when their home was buried by a landslide in the northern province of Yen Bai, it said.

Other parts of Asia have not been spared either.

Two typhoons hit Japan this month, leaving at least 106 people dead or missing.

In Thailand, the disaster department said 188 people have been killed and three others remain missing after a series of tropical storms hit the country since late July. Nearly 2 million people have been affected by floods and mudslides, and 122 roads are impassable.

Heavy rains in Chiang Mai, Thailand's second-biggest city, caused the Ping River to burst its banks and flooded the railway station, forcing a temporary shutdown in train service to northern Thailand. Meanwhile, 122 highways and roads nationwide are impassable.

More rainfall was forecast in northern Thailand for the weekend.

In the Indian state of Orissa, monsoon flooding following severe drought earlier this year has killed at least 81 people since August, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee their homes. The state is asking for about $726 million in federal funds to help cope with the destruction.

Flooding has also hit the eastern states of Bihar and West Bengal, as well as Assam in the northeast and Uttar Pradesh in the north.

In Pakistan, monsoon rains since early August have flooded large parts of the southern Sindh province, which is still recovering from extreme flooding from a year ago. The government says 7 million people have been affected.

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