By David Montero | Correspondent 09.29.09

Leaving behind a path of destruction and 240 dead and climbing in the Philippines, hurricane Ketsana has now become a full-scale typhoon as it barrels down on central Vietnam, raising fears of another catastrophic downpour.

The storm is stronger now than when it ripped through the Philippines, with winds of more than 100 miles per hour. The eye of the storm, with even stronger winds of 126 miles per hour, was expected to touch down at 1 p.m. local time in Vietnam.

But authorities there appeared ready, with 100,000 people from flood prone villages already evacuated, and residents in Central Vietnam advised to stockpile food, water, and medicine. Vietnam is hoping to avoid the calamity that caught the Philippines largely off guard.

Vietnam was hard hit by heavy rains and floods just last week, which left as many as 23 people dead and nearly 10,000 houses destroyed in north-central provinces of the country. This time, the government has deployed hundreds of military personnel to move people out of the path of the storm, and also ordered ships safely harbored and schools closed, and canceled all flights to the tourist cites of Hue and Danang.

Of particular concern for authorities is the fate of rice and other food. The storms last week submerged 2,400 hectares of rice and 5,900 hectares of farm produce, reports Vietnam’s Thanh Nien newspaper.

So the government has issued a warning that “farmers have been prompted to harvest rice quickly to avoid crop losses.”

Ketsana’s destruction could just be beginning. Even as rescue operations continued in the Philippines, where the death toll has risen to at least 240, authorities in Laos and Thailand were warning that they could be next in Ketsana’s path. China’s Xinhua news service reports:

Thailand’s Meteorological Department on Tuesday warned residents in 18 provinces of heavy rains and flash floods as tropical storm Ketsana is expected to reach the country’s northeast region Wednesday.

In the Philippines, which is barely getting back on its feet after Saturday’s deluge, rain-soaked cities and shaken residents were preparing for an awful prospect: another violent storm.

Weather forecasters are tracking a storm off the eastern coast of the Philippines, and expect it to touch land on Thursday. They say the storm could become a typhoon as well.

The impact of a typhoon could cause severe damage, not only physically but also politically. As the military scrambles to deliver more aid to surviving residents, many are fuming that the government was caught off guard by the first storm. A second could foment more backlash against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who is already dogged by accusations of corruption and poll fraud, reports

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