The death toll from a landslide triggered by monsoon rains in eastern Myanmar rose to at least 34, an official said Saturday, as emergency workers continued a desperate search through thick mud for scores more feared missing.
Myanmar’s monsoon season brings an annual torrent of heavy downpours, which often leaves tens of thousands displaced from flooded homes and triggering deadly landslides across its more hilly regions.
A huge brown gash on the hillside marked where the deluge of mud flooded onto Ye Pyar Kone village in Mon state on Friday, wiping out 16 homes.
Search and rescue teams worked through the night with excavators and their bare hands trying to find survivors and recover bodies from the deep sludge, continuing through Saturday.
“We found 34 dead, and the search for dead bodies is still ongoing,” local administrator Myo Min Tun told AFP.
So far, 47 people have been left injured while officials believe that more than 80 people could still be missing.
Aerial pictures showed broken remnants of rooftops and other debris from the houses strewn next to trucks knocked over by the force of the mudslide.
The village’s hillside temple was left inundated, leaving the pagoda’s golden spire peeking out from beneath the mud.
Htay Htay Win, 32, told AFP that two of her daughters and five other relatives had still not been found.
She only survived because she had left her home minutes earlier to go look at the flooding nearby.
“I heard a huge noise and turned round to see my home being hit by the mud,” she said, crying.
Rescue workers spent Saturday morning loading bodies wrapped in plastic onto the back of flatbed trucks as worried villagers looked on.
Tin Htay described how he and his family managed to escape when the landslide hit his house and his efforts to rescue others trapped by the mud.
“I dragged a woman and two children from a car but I could not reach two other people, so I had to leave them,” the 30-year-old said.
Emergency crews had to unblock the main highway from Yangon to Mawlamyine, buried under six feet (1.8 metres) of sludge.
Torrential downpours have burst riverbanks across the country while coastal communities have been warned of higher tides.
In the town of Shwegyin in eastern Bago region, residents waded out through waist-deep waters or waited to be rescued by boat after the Sittaung river burst its banks, swallowing entire homes.
Around 89,000 people have been displaced by floods in recent weeks, although many have since been able to return home, according to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Vietnam has also experienced heavy flooding this week with at least eight people killed in the country’s central highlands and rescuers using a zipline to carry dozens of others to safety.