THANH HOA, Vietnam – After killing at least 31 people in China and the Philippines, Typhoon Damrey (search) slammed ashore Tuesday in Vietnam, forcing the evacuation of nearly 300,000 people along the coastal region.
The most powerful typhoon to hit northern Vietnam in a decade injured nine people after it landed in Thanh Hoa province (search), packing winds of up to 60 mph, said Le Van Thao of the National Meteorology Center. Thanh Hoa is 100 miles south of Hanoi.
About 144,000 people from Thanh Hoa and another 145,000 from three surrounding provinces were evacuated from low-lying homes, schools and government buildings before the storm hit, said provincial disaster official Tran Quang Trung.
Some 950 homes were destroyed and another 9,000 were badly damaged.
Power outages were reported in Thai Binh and Thanh Hoa provinces, home to 5 million people.
More than 25,000 soldiers have been sent to help reinforce sea dikes and evacuate people, state media reported.
High tides sent 15-foot waves surging over a 100-mile sea wall in Thanh Hoa and Nam Dinh, Trung said. In another spot in Thanh Hoa, waves burst through the dike, creating a 100-foot-long break that flooded one village.
National broadcaster VTV (search) reported that falling power poles injured five people in Thanh Hoa, while disaster officials said four workers had been slightly injured while clearing downed trees from the streets.
About 700 people were stranded in Thanh Hoa's Quang Cu village after surging waters breached a dike and engulfed their homes, VTV reported.
Initial damage is estimated at $5.2 million in Thanh Hoa alone, disaster relief officials said. About 950 homes were destroyed and another 9,000 lost their roofs.
VTV showed Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, wearing a rain poncho and soldier's helmet, touring a district in Nam Dinh province where dikes were breached, inundating three villages with 5 feet of water.
"Up to now, no deaths have been reported. That's our victory," he said.
Surrounded by rescue workers in life jackets, Dung urged local authorities to evacuate more people to safety and provide them with food and health care. Some 30,000 people from the district had been evacuated to higher ground the night before.
Weather forecasters said Typhoon Damrey was weakening as it slowly moved across northern and central Vietnam. By late afternoon, it was already crossing the border into Laos.
Eight flights to and from Hanoi were canceled Tuesday, temporarily stranding 400 passengers at the airport, said Vietnam Airlines spokesman Nguyen Chan.
Before hitting Vietnam, Typhoon Damrey — which means elephant in the Khmer language of Cambodia — ravaged southern China's Hainan island and the neighboring province of Guangdong, killing nine.
Four others were killed by tornadoes spawned by the typhoon, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported (search). Officials said about 25,000 homes were demolished and another 100,000 damaged, Xinhua reported.
It was the most destructive typhoon to hit southern China in more than three decades.
While still a tropical storm in the Philippines last week, Damrey triggered rain that killed at least 18 people there.