HANOI, Vietnam (AP) – A storm that officials consider the strongest to hit Vietnam in 20 years blew the country away on Thursday after causing landslides, sinking boats and killing at least 1.7 million people. State media said at least 35 people were killed and more than 50 were missing.
Rescuers immediately focused on three villages in the central part of the country, where landslides have killed at least 19 people and are suspected of burying more than 40 others in thick mud and debris.
Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung arrived at the site of a landslide, where soldiers were working to clear the debris with bulldozers and he ordered officers to urgently send more troops to assist. support this effort.
“We have to get to the landslide site quickly. First, let̵7;s send more troops before we can get the large machine over there. We had to reach the area by all means, including using a helicopter, ”he said.
Among the dead were 12 fishermen whose boats sank on Wednesday as a result of the Molave storm reaching winds of up to 150 kilometers (93 miles) per hour. Another 14 fishermen are still missing.
Officials said the number of deaths across the country could increase as some regions were unable to report details of the damage and casualties.
Rescuers unearthed eight bodies on Thursday morning in Tra Van village, Quang Nam province, where a hillside collapsed home. The Vietnamese news agency reported that the victims went to shelter in the community when the storm approached.
In Tra Leng village, about 45 km (28 miles) from Tra Van, another landslide buried a community with many houses occupying about 45 people. Four people escaped, while rescuers picked up eight bodies and then pulled out four survivors, including two children trapped in a buried house, Vietnam News said. know.
The survivors pulled from thick brown debris were taken to hospital with fractures of their arms and legs and other injuries. Rescuers continued to frantically search for at least 33 others believed to be buried.
Tra Leng was initially inaccessible due to damaged roads, floods and other landslides but by Thursday afternoon government disaster response teams were able to open a road with bulldozers and machines. excavation, at the same time bringing in more rescue forces and heavy equipment.
As the army scrambled to rescue people buried alive in Tra Leng, another part of a stormy slope in nearby Phuoc Loc district fell into the mud, killing 3 and trapped 11, Vietnam News said.
Other villagers in Phuoc Loc are advised to flee to a safe place as the mountain slope is not stable.
The three landslide areas are in the mountains of Quang Nam province, a coastal area still recovering from a flood that killed 136 people and destroyed hundreds of homes earlier this month.
Quang Nam, a tourist draw for an old town and Hindu temple, is about 800 km (500 miles) southeast of Hanoi.
In another development, four people were killed by fallen trees and collapsed houses in Quang Nam and Gia Lai provinces when the storm hit the coast on Wednesday.
The Navy’s search and rescue vessels found the bodies of 12 of the 26 fishermen who sunk Wednesday off Binh Dinh province, state media said.
According to Vietnam News, the storm has blown up the roofs of about 56,000 houses and caused widespread power outages in Quang Ngai province, where 1.7 million people suffered the storm’s attack in the dark.
At least 40,000 people have been evacuated to emergency shelters and authorities shut offices, factories and schools to prevent casualties.
The storm killed at least 16 people in the Philippines before traveling across the South China Sea to Vietnam.
Associated Press journalist Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, contributed to this report.