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Typhoon Haiyan has hit Vietnam, days after it left thousands dead and widespread devastation in the Philippines.
The US Joint Typhoon Warning Centre (JTWC) says the storm “is currently making landfall” approximately 160km east south-east of the capital Hanoi.
The storm, which had weakened significantly since scything through the Philippines over the weekend, made landfall with sustained winds of 120km/h, said the JTWC, a joint US Navy and Air Force task force located in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
More than 600,000 people evacuated on the weekend as Haiyan bore down on Vietnam.
Residents of Hanoi are braced for heavy rains and flooding, while tens of thousands of people in coastal areas have been ordered to take shelter.
“We have evacuated more than 174,000 households, which is equivalent to more than 600,000 people,” said an official report by Vietnam’s flood and storm control department.
The storm changed course on Sunday, prompting further mass evacuations of about 52,000 people in northern provinces by the coast.
“People must bring enough food and necessities for three days …. Those who do not move voluntarily will be forced,” online newspaper VNExpress said, adding all boats have been ordered back to shore.
The Red Cross says Haiyan’s changed path means that “the disaster area could be enlarged from nine provinces to as many as 15”, stretching the country’s resources.
All schools were ordered shut in the capital on Monday and extra police have been dispatched to redirect traffic in flood-prone areas.
The weather system – one of the most intense typhoons on record when it tore into the Philippines – weakened over the South China Sea.
In Vietnam, at least five people reportedly died while preparing to escape the typhoon, the Vietnamese government website said.
By lunchtime on Sunday the typhoon had swept across Vietnam’s Con Co island, 30km off the coast of central Quang Tri province, the Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.
“All 250 people on the island including residents and soldiers were evacuated to underground shelters where there is enough food for several days,” it said, adding the storm brought three-metre waves.