Chan Hom strengthens, ships take evasive action

May 6, 2009

Thousands of vessels got out of the reach of tropical storm Chan Hom after receiving warnings and instructions from authorities even as it gathered force, experts said Tuesday.

More than 3,000 fishermen on 262 vessels in the waters off the Truong Sa (Spratly) and Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelagos moved away from the area to find shelter in surrounding islands, a coast guard officer said Tuesday.

Most of them still maintained contact with the mainland, Colonel Phan Van Quang of the National Coast Guard said.

Experts have said Chan Hom mostly affected the East Sea’s middle region, including the two archipelagos.

Quang said as of 4 p.m. Tuesday, coast guard forces of 14 coastal provinces from Quang Binh to Tien Giang had warned and supplied information about the storm to 17,793 offshore vessels with 83,032 fishermen.

Authorities in the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang said eight local ships in the storm-prone areas were riding out the storm in the Philippines and Malaysia after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested permission for them to do so.

The Central Steering Committee for Flood Control has also asked authorities of central provinces stretching from Binh Dinh to Binh Thuan to ban any ship from going off shore.

Experts from the National Hydro-meteorology Forecast Center said Tuesday that the Chan Hom storm, the first to hit Vietnam this year, could change its path and that the situation was complicated.

By Tuesday afternoon, the storm had strengthened with wind speeds of 89-117 kilometers per hour.

It was moving northward at a speed of 5-10 kilometers per hour and could directly affect the waters off the coast from Quang Ngai to Ninh Thuan.

The eye of the storm was expected to be in Truong Sa’s eastern area by tomorrow afternoon.

Chan Hom will cause very rough seas with five to seven-meter-high waves, the center said.

Heavy rains will hit Mekong Delta provinces, it added.

Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Cao Duc Phat said Monday that Chan Hom’s route was similar to the Chan Chu tropical storm which killed 44 and left 190 missing in 2006.

Phat said the priority was warning and instructing fishermen to stay out of the storm’s way.

“The waters between Truong Sa and Hoang Sa archipelagos are the most dangerous,” he said.

Chan Hom, whose name comes from a plant found in Laos, developed from a depression that formed on Saturday off the central coast along with two other low pressures. One of pressures has developed into Typhoon Kujira in Filipino waters.

Reported by Quang Duan – Mai Vong

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