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Danang, Vietnam -- Typhoon Noru barrelled into Vietnam's central coast early Wednesday, the national forecaster said, bringing powerful winds and heavy rain as hundreds of thousands of people took refuge in shelters.
In Danang, Vietnam's third largest city, high rise buildings shook in the strong gusts that toppled trees and tore roofs from homes across the central region. Large scale power outages were reported.
"The position of the typhoon's centre at 4:00 am (2100 GMT Tuesday) on September 28 is between Danang and Quang Nam," the National Centre for Hydrometeorological Forecasting said, adding wind speeds were between 103 and 117 kilometers (64-72 miles) per hour.
More than 200,000 people in Vietnam had taken refuge in shelters overnight, after forecasters predicted the storm would be one of the biggest to hit the Southeast Asian nation.
Wind speeds were slower than initially feared, but forecasters said heavy rain would continue into the day and warned of landslides and serious flooding.
The defence ministry has mobilised around 40,000 soldiers and 200,000 militia members, equipped with armoured vehicles and boats in preparation for rescue and relief operations, state media said.
Almost half of Vietnam's airports have been shut, schools and offices across several central provinces -- including in Danang -- were closed and residents rushed to secure their homes Tuesday.
The central section of highway linking Hanoi in the north with commercial hub Ho Chi Minh City in the south has also been closed.
That came after Super Typhoon Noru slammed into the Philippines earlier this week, killing six people.
Authorities said late Tuesday they had evacuated nearly 260,000 people from their homes, including in the popular tourist city of Hoi An, where residents were brought to a primary school.
"I wanted to leave. My house is not very strong. I am afraid its roof might be blown away when the typhoon hits," Huynh Mua told AFP, clutching a plastic bag full of clothes, a blanket and several packets of instant noodles.
Three hundred houses in the coastal province of Quang Tri had their roofs blown off late Tuesday as winds began picking up speed. In nearby Hue, trees were blown to the ground. In Danang all shops and hotels were closed, while residents were banned from going out on the streets.
Noru hit the Philippines' Luzon island on Sunday and Monday, toppling trees, knocking out power and flooding low-lying communities.
Five rescuers were killed after being sent to help flooded residents, while another man died after he was hit by a landslide. Officials estimate about $2.4 million worth of crops were damaged.
© Agence France-Presse