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Tuesday, November 4, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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5,000 Missing In Storm -- Typhoon Hit Vietnam Coastal Province Like A `Howling Animal'

AP

CA MAU, Vietnam - One day after Typhoon Linda cut a swath of destruction through southern Vietnam, rescue workers said today that at least 120 people were killed and 2,000 were missing at sea and presumed dead.

The storm pounded the coast with winds gusting to more than 80 mph, blowing down buildings, trees and anything else in its path in four provinces early yesterday. Linda passed into Burma today on its way to the Bay of Bengal.

"It's horrible. This typhoon is the worst we've seen. It's worse than what usually hits the south and central provinces," said Huynh Khanh, director of foreign relations for the People's Committee of Ca Mau, the worst-hit province, 220 miles south of Ho Chi Minh City.

Rescue workers said today that at least 120 people were killed in southern Vietnam. Nearly 1,000 were missing at sea and presumed dead after more than 1,300 fishing boats were sunk. Another 1,000 were simply missing at sea.

In Ca Mau alone, the damage is estimated at $170 million - more than the annual gross domestic product for the province. More than 125,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in Ca Mau.

"When the storm hit, it made the strangest sound," said Than Huu Khang, 34, a fisherman. "It was like a howling animal."

Along National Highway No. 1, which ends in Ca Mau town, trees were toppled and houses were flattened. Corrugated sheet metal used for roofing was strewn across the road, and one sheet dangled from telephone lines.

Townspeople whose homes were damaged tried to rebuild, some laying palm leaves on their dwellings as makeshift roofs. Those with destroyed homes just sifted through the debris looking for belongings.

In Kien Giang province, damage was estimated at $60 million. In the town of Bac Lieu, 11,000 homes were destroyed. Officials also said that most schools in the region were either damaged or destroyed, as were many medical clinics.

Deputy Premier Trinh Minh Thanh left the capital, Hanoi, and was heading south today to the Mekong Delta area to assess damage and begin lining up government relief money.

The dozens of fishing villages that dot Ca Mau's coastline were unprepared for the storm, which made rescue and recovery efforts difficult. Some were flooded, and power lines were cut, local authorities said.

It was the first major storm to hit Ca Mau in decades, said Vo Thien Hoang, head of the Flood and Storm Control Department.

Last night, Linda also hit four provinces in southern Thailand. The Interior Ministry said three people died, 13 were injured and more than 30 fishing vessels capsized. More than 100 houses were damaged in Prachuab Khirikan province.

In the northern part of the Cook Islands, at least five people were killed and 18 were missing after a separate cyclone struck low-lying atolls Saturday.

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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