HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam is readying plans to evacuate up to half a million people as it braces for a tropical storm expected to make landfall in the Southeast Asian country's central coastline later this week.
Tropical Storm Noul is gaining strength and forecast to make landfall later on Friday with wind speed of up to 135 km per hour (84 mph), according to the government's weather agency.
The tropical storm was more than 200 km southeast of the Paracel islands in the South China Sea as of late Wednesday and was heading to a swath of coastline stretching from Quang Binh province to Danang, the agency said.
"This is a very strong storm that will make landfall at high tide," Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung said in a statement.
"Provincial authorities need to help people to evacuate and protect their properties."
Dung said an estimated of 500,000 people in the path of the storm will need to be evacuated. He also urged authorities to brace for possible floods and landslides triggered by heavy rains.
Noul is forecast also to hit southern Laos and northern Thailand.
Vietnam is prone to destructive storms and flooding due to its long coastline. Natural disasters - predominantly floods and landslides triggered by storms - killed 132 people and injured 207 others in the country last year.
Noul is forecast to dump up to 400 milimetres of rain in parts of central Vietnam over the coming days, the forecasting agency said.
(Reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by Martin Petty)