Severe typhoon hits Vietnam

Official reports from the Vietnamese government have confirmed Typhoon Nancy as the worse in the recent history of Vietnam, Monitor contributor Paul Quinn-Judge reports.

In the past week, at least 30 people have been killed and 72,000 homes destroyed in the major city of Vinh, once flattened by US bombing. In all, 125, 000 people are reported homeless. For 12 hours, the typhoon's 140 -kilometer-an-hour winds battered the two north-central provinces of Thanh Hoa and Nghe Tinh, which between them have over one-third of Vietnam's population.

The disaster came just after the Vietnamese agriculture minister announced that, ''barring natural disasters,'' his country would have a record 16 -million-ton grain harvest.

One hundred thirty-seven thousand hectares of rice were reported damaged, one-third of it beyond hope. This is likely to mean a loss of anything from 150, 000 to 200,000 metric tons of rice.

This was the third time in five years that typhoons had hit the provinces, said a local official interviewed on Hanoi radio. Though the damage does not yet add up to a major agricultural disaster, one more typhoon could easily tip the balance between bare food sufficiency and hunger.

Typhoon Nancy struck towards the end of the typhoon season, but as every Asian farmer knows, typhoons at the end of the year are likely to be the most destructive - and they often come in pairs.

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