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Friday, November 5, 1999 Published at 20:03 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Death toll rises in Vietnam

A family head to higher ground after their farm near Danang flooded.

The death toll in Vietnam's worst flooding in four decades is reported to have topped 300.

Some reports say 355 people have died during several days of torrential rain, and hundreds more are feared dead.

More than 150 of those killed were in the former imperial capital Hue, a popular tourist destination. It was unclear if foreigners were among the dead.

[ image:  ]
Heavy rains have hampered relief efforts, and meteorologists forecast more rain over the next few days.

The Vietnamese army has been called in to take over rescue operations.

Air force planes and helicopters are being used to rescue people stranded on their rooftops, while naval ships have been called in to search for fishing vessels.

Vietnam Television said 120,000 people faced food shortages.

Helicopters have been flying in food aid but have been unable to land in many places because of the floodwaters.

Nguyen Ti Nien, the head the national disaster relief agency, said residents who escaped the floodwaters were cooking rice to be air-lifted to those in dire need.

The BBC's Shelaye Boothey: "Central Vietnam resembles an inland sea"
John Geoghegan, head of an International Red Cross delegation in Vietnam, said victims needed food before more rains hit.

"We hope people can be taken to safer ground before big rains hit again. There is grave concern about what is coming in from the South China Sea," he said.

Lack of drinking water is also expected to be a growing problem, along with the possible outbreak of epidemics.

Hue's hospital is full, and facing the prospect of a diarrhoea epidemic.

Widespread damage

Initial property damage has been put at $11.5m.

[ image: Villagers in Danang pick up emergency supplies.]
Villagers in Danang pick up emergency supplies.
Hundreds of thousands of homes have been damaged.

Heavy rains hit the key coffee region of Daklak province on Friday, compounding fears that the current harvest will be delayed.

National Highway One linking Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, along with parts of the national railway line have been cut.

Pham The Duyet, a member of the elite politburo, said the ruling Communist Party had appealed to the whole nation and to the international community for aid. Former colonial power France had already offered funds, officials said.

The Red Cross was to launch an international appeal on Friday.

The floods - Vietnam's worst in 40 years - encompass six coastal provinces, stretching some 500km (300 miles) and home to seven million people.

Central coastal Vietnam is regularly hit by bad weather. Last year, storms and floods killed 397 people in the region, while several people were killed last month by tropical storm Eve.

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