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Hailstones pummel northern provinces

LAO CAI, Vietnam, March 28 — A hailstorm hit the northern mountainous provinces of Cao Bang, Ha Giang and Lao Cai yesterday, injuring dozens of people while damaging tens of thousands of houses.

Lao Cai was hardest hit with 33 people being injured and 5,700 houses damaged.

More than 10,500 households in total and many schools and health clinics were affected.

Fifteen of the injured were taken to hospital after being hit by massive hailstones that rained down for 15 minutes.

The hailstorm hit Lao Cai at dawn Wednesday, where hailstones had an average diameter of 5-10cm.

Vu Thanh Tuan, a resident in Muong Khuong district, told the Vietnam News Agency it was the heaviest hail fall he had ever seen.

"There were hailstones the size of a person's fist," he said.

Director of the provincial Dept. of Agriculture and Rural Development Ma Quang Trung said the storm was unusual.

"It was the heaviest so far in the province, and hit the three districts of Muong Khuong, Bac Ha and Si Ma Cai. Previous hailstorms only occurred on a small scale and were limited to some communes," he said.

Another hailstorm hit the province Wednesday morning, at around 10am but was not so heavy, he added.

Director of the provincial hydro meteorological forecast station Luu Minh Hai said a cold spell had moved into the northern region on Tuesday, and movements of cold and hot air triggered strong winds and the hailstorms.

The cold spell also caused rain across the province with an average rainfall of between 5-10mm, Hai said.

Hailstorms also caused great damage to the property of local people in Cao Bang and Ha Giang.

As many as 341 houses and hundreds of crops in Cao Bang were damaged, according to initial reports from local authorities.

Authorities are taking drastic measures to help local residents deal with the aftermath of the storm.

A cold spell will continue in the northern region with temperatures dropping to 15 degree Celsius, according to the national hydro meteorological Forecast Center.

The center also warned of possible whirlwinds and more hailstorms in some areas. (PNA/VNS)


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