Vietnam calls off search for typhoon victims

Hanoi - Authorities have called off a search for 20 fishermen who went missing 10 days ago in a typhoon that killed 12 people in central Vietnam, officials said Wednesday.

"The two boats from the army and the fishery department stopped their searching operations on Tuesday, after finding no sign of the missing boat," said Pham Viet Tich, deputy director of Quang Nam's fisheries department.

"According to our experts, the boat could have sunk right on the day it went missing, on June 12."

"We cannot say the 20 have died, we still list them as missing," Nguyen Xuan Phuc, chairman of Quang Nam's People Committee, told reporters.

"We have withdrawn the searching team from the spot but we have still asked other off-shore fishing boats to keep an eye out for the missing one."

The crew had been fishing 560km off the coast. State media said on Wednesday they had all belonged to poor families in the area.

Provincial authorities had sent five tonnes of rice to relatives of the missing fishermen, reports said.

Typhoon Chanthu killed 12 people and left 26, including the fishermen, missing after it hit three central Vietnamese regions last weekend, according to an official report by the local flood and storm control.

The storm sank dozens of fishing boats and destroyed hundreds of houses. Flood water also swamped tens of thousands of hectares of rice fields and other crops.

Prime Minister Phan Van Khai has ordered local authorities to organise rescue operations and repair dykes, drains, reservoirs and embankments damaged by the typhoon.

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