Vietnam bars boats from Halong Bay ahead of typhoon
HANOI, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Vietnam barred tourist and fishing boats from its famed Halong Bay and ordered an evacuation of areas at risk of flash floods on Wednesday ahead of a powerful typhoon that battered southern China.
Rescue teams and equipment were deployed across nine northern provinces in the path of typhoon Hagupit, hours after it triggered a "once-in-a-century storm tide" and forced 100,000 to flee in southern China.
"There will be very heavy torrential rains, significantly raising the risk of flash floods and land slides in the nine mountainous provinces in the eye of the storm," the Communist-led government said on its main website.
The storm did not pose a threat to Vietnam's main agricultural exports. The Central Highlands coffee belt lies about 1,200 km (750 miles) to the south, while the Mekong Delta rice basket is 1,900 km (1,180 miles) from the path of Hagupit.
"Residents living near streams, rivers and mountains where flash floods and landslides could hit must be evacuated before 6 p.m. (1100 GMT)," Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung was quoted as saying after an emergency cabinet meeting.
The nine provinces include Lao Cai, home to the former French hill station turned resort town Sapa, and Quang Ninh, where tourists flock to see the majestic rock formations in Halong Bay.
Some 400 tourist boats and more than 150 fishing vessels were ordered to remain in port ahead of the typhoon, expected to make landfall early on Thursday.
As of late Tuesday some 30,000 Vietnamese fishermen were still working in coastal areas that may be hit by the storm, according to a report by the Vietnamese military.
In early August, floods and landslides from a tropical storm killed more than 100 people in northern Vietnam, which is battered by an average of 10 storms a year.
Vietnamese weather forecasters say four or five more storms could still hit central and southern provinces before the end of the year, possibly affecting the coffee harvest in the central highlands due to begin in mid-October. (Reporting by Nguyen Nhat Lam and Ho Binh Minh; Writing by Darren Schuettler; Editing by Alan Raybould)