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Relief for Vietnam as scary Typhoon Tembin weakens into tropical depression

By Huu Nguyen - Hung Phong   December 25, 2017 | 06:33 pm PT
The depression is forecast to head for the Gulf of Thailand instead of making landfall in Vietnam's southernmost province.

Typhoon Tembin, the 16th tropical storm raging Vietnamese waters this year, weakened into a tropical depression as it entered the southern sea on Tuesday morning.

Tembin approached the coastline of the southernmost provinces Ca Mau and Bac Lieu at 1 a.m., as winds slowed down to 60 kilometers (37 miles) per hour, compared to 135 kph on Monday morning.

The depression is forecast to continue moving west to the Gulf of Thailand instead of making landfall in Ca Mau as earlier expected.

Brewing over the South China Sea (known in Vietnam as the East Sea) late Saturday, Tembin had scared Vietnam into mass mandatory evacuation. The southern region, including Saigon, is rarely hit by stormy weather and is thus ill-equipped to deal with any major typhoon.

A family in Ca Mau Province ties up their hut as they expect for Typhoon Tembin to strike on Monday night. Photo by VnExpress/Phuc Hung

A family in Ca Mau Province fortifies their hut as they expect for Typhoon Tembin to strike on Monday night. Photo by VnExpress/Phuc Hung

Officials said that a year-end storm only comes once in a decade and a strong one like Tembin is the first. 16 storms a year is also a record number for Vietnam.

Tembin, which left at least 240 people dead in the Philippines, had brought back the specter and traumatic memories of Typhoon Linda which struck southern Vietnam 20 years ago and left more than 3,000 people dead or missing.

No casualty or serious damage has been reported in Vietnam this time.

Yet the southern region should still expect downpours and rough seas over the coming days, officials said.

Authorities in the Mekong provinces said the fishing ban is still in effect, although schools will reopen on Wednesday and hundreds of thousands of evacuated people are allowed to return to their homes.

“It’s great joy that that Tembin has weakened. But the weather is still gloomy and we must not be complacent,” said Nguyen Long Hoai, an official from Ca Mau’s search and rescue committee.

Before Tembin, flooding and storms have already left 390 people dead or missing in Vietnam in the first 11 months of this year, causing damage totaling VND52.2 trillion ($2.34 billion), according to the General Statistics Office.

Poor forecasting and preparations have been blamed as part of the reasons for the heavy toll, which surpassed last year’s losses of 264 people and nearly VND40 trillion ($1.75 billion) worth of damage.

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