Typhoon Molave set off landslides that killed at least 15 people and left 38 missing in central Vietnam, where ferocious wind and rain blew away roofs and knocked out power in a region of 1.7 million residents, state media said Thursday.
The casualties from the landslides bring the death toll to at least 19 with about 64 missing, including 26 crew members from two fishing boats that sank Wednesday as the typhoon approached with winds of up to 150 kilometers (93 miles) per hour. Vietnamese officials say it’s the worst typhoon to hit the country in 20 years.
Details of possible casualties and damage in other typhoon-hit regions have not yet been reported amid the stormy weather and could cause the toll to rise.
Rescuers dug up eight bodies Thursday morning in Tra Van village in south central Quang Nam province where a hillside collapsed on houses. The victims had taken shelter in the community as the typhoon approached, the official Vietnam News Agency reported.
In Tra Leng village, about 45 kilometers (28 miles) from Tra Van, another landslide buried a community with several houses occupied by about 45 people, including four who managed to escape. Rescuers have recovered three bodies and were scrambling to save others, Vietnam News said.
Authorities later said that 15 bodies have been found with 38 others missing in the two villages but did immediately provide a breakdown and other details.
Tra Leng remains inaccessible due to damaged roads and other landslides and government disaster-response teams were using bulldozers and excavators to open up a road to bring in more rescuers and heavy equipment.
Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung traveled to the site where soldiers were clearing up a landslide with bulldozers and ordered officers to urgently bring in troops to the landslide-hit village.
“We must reach the landslide site the fastest way. First, send in more soldiers before we can get the big machine there. We have to reach the area by all means, including by using helicopters,” he said.
Tra Leng and Tran Van lie in the mountains of the hard-hit province of Quang Nam in a coastal region still recovering from floods that killed 136 people and destroyed hundreds of houses earlier this month.
Four people were killed by falling trees and collapsed houses in Quang Nam and Gia Lai provinces when the typhoon slammed into the coast Wednesday. Rescuers have not found any survivors while searching for the two fishing boats that sank off Binh Dinh province, state media said.
The typhoon blew off roofs of about 56,000 houses and caused a massive blackout in Quang Ngai province, where 1.7 million people endured the typhoon onslaught overnight in darkness, according to Vietnam News.
At least 40,000 people were evacuated to emergency shelters and authorities shut down offices, factories and schools to prevent casualties.
The typhoon left at least 16 people dead in the Philippines before blowing across the South China Sea toward Vietnam.