At 1 p.m. Monday, the storm lay centered around 560 km east-northeast of Southwest Cay islet, with winds of 135 kph, according to the National Center for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting.

Over the next 24 hours, it will move west at 20-25 kph and gradually intensify. At around 7 a.m. Tuesday, it will be 280 km to the north of Southwest Cay with winds of up to 150 kph.

Mai Van Khiem, director of the national forecast center, said at a meeting Monday both the agency and its Japanese counterpart predict the rapidly moving storm would make landfall in central Quang Nam, Quang Ngai and Binh Dinh provinces.

The agencies forecast the storm would reach Vietnamese shores on Wednesday morning, before making landfall in the coming hours.

On Wednesday morning, the storm’s center would be around 200 km from the coast of Quang Ngai to Binh Dinh with a maximum wind speed of 135 kph, causing waves of up to 10 m.

Storm circulation combined with a cold spell would cause heavy rains on a large scale, and localities stretching over 1,000 km from Nghe An to Phu Yen will be battered by torrential downpours and strong winds from Tuesday until Thursday, with rainfall of between 200-400 mm.

Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Quang Binh are told to brace for prolonged downpours until Saturday with total rainfall of up to 700 mm. Rainfall of 180 mm a day is considered heavy.

Mountainous areas will be at high risk of landslides.

Mass evacuation

Tran Quang Hoai, deputy head of the Central Steering Committee for Natural Disaster Prevention and Control, said with Molave’s strength level, the committee is ready to evacuate over 1.2 million residents in seven central provinces Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri, Thua Thien-Hue, Quang Nam, Quang Ngai and Binh Dinh.

The region, home to popular ancient towns, beautiful beaches and world famous caves, has been bombarded by historic flooding and deadly landslides for the past three weeks, suffering damage government officials described as “the worst in five years.” At least 130 people have been killed by floods and landslides between October 6 and 25.

Hoai urged provincial leaders to stay in contact with fishing boats, evacuate residents to safety, and make plans to limit storm damage.

There are still 65,000 fishing boats operating along the central coast, of which 45,000 have received official warnings.

“The storm is too strong,” Hoai said, ordering localities to order boats to take shelter, ban residents from fishing activities, and close all public beaches by Tuesday night.

Vietnam’s Ministry of National Defense has called for the mobilization of more than 368,000 people – soldiers, members of the police force, and civilian volunteers, to assist residents in at-risk areas.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said at the meeting that localities must be on high alert and prepare their best flood prevention measures.

“If the storm comes as strong as forecast, damage from rains and floods will be extremely huge,” Phuc said.

According to the Central Steering Committee for Natural Disaster Prevention and Control, Storm Molave’s strength is equivalent to Storm Damrey, which hit south central Vietnam in November 2017 and killed 106 people.

Natural disasters, mostly floods and landslides triggered by storms and heavy rains, killed 132 people and injured 207 in Vietnam last year.

Reported by Nguyen Quy, Tat Dinh, @Vnexpress

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