46 landslide survivors rescued in central Vietnam

By Staff reporters   October 29, 2020 | 04:32 am PT
46 landslide survivors rescued in central Vietnam
Police officers, soldiers and local residents in Nam Tra My District, Quang Nam Province cooperate to find survivors of a landslide in Tra Leng Commune, October 29, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Dac Thanh.
At least 46 survivors of two different landslides in Quang Nam Province have been rescued as of Thursday afternoon, leaving 13 still missing.

The two landslides, one in Tra Leng Commune and the other at Tra Van Commune, both in the central province’s Nam Tra My District, have killed at least 14 people, authorities said.

They were triggered by impacts of Storm Molave, said to be the strongest to have hit Vietnam in the last two decades. The storm made landfall on Wednesday morning and devolved into a tropical depression in the afternoon.

The Tra Leng landslide had buried 53 people, of whom six are confirmed dead. Thirty-four have survived, leaving 13 still missing. The Tra Van landslide had buried 20, killing eight and injuring 12, local authorities say.

Rescue efforts in Tra Leng are ongoing despite difficulties to access the site because of local topography and other landslides in the area. Hundreds of soldiers and police officers have been dispatched for the search and rescue operation.

Survivors made it by dint of being able to prevent themselves from being completely submerged by soil and mud, a senior military official in the district said.

Ho Thi Hau, 19, said two of her relatives were injured in the Tra Leng landslide.

"At around 3 p.m. Wednesday, I heard the sound of the ground exploding. When I ran out, I saw that half a hill had collapsed onto the village, burying all the houses and roads," she said, adding that her relatives have been hospitalized.

Locals have been digging through the rubble for the entire night, but they are not sure if anyone else missing without being accounted for, Hau said.

Nguyen Thanh Son, 56, a survivor of the Tra Leng landslide, said he heard small explosions at around 12 p.m. Wednesday, but no landslide happened then.

"At around 3 p.m., when some other people and I were collecting rocks to block the stream and prevent houses from being flooded, we heard more explosions. When I looked up, I saw trees and soil and rubble tumbling down very quickly and powerfully. I yelled for others to run away, but we couldn’t escape. I was blasted to the front by the sheer force of water and rocks," he said.

When he gathered himself a few moments later, he saw the scene of carnage before him, with the living screaming for help amongst the wreckage and rubble.

"There was a girl who broke her leg and called out for help near me. I picked her up and out of the wreckage, put her down and covered her with a raincoat. I told her to stay still and to call for help if someone’s nearby. Then I continued to help some other injured people to get out," Son said. His wife was killed in the landslide.

Meanwhile, another landslide hit Quang Nam’s Phuoc Son District Thursday, about 200 km from Nam Tra My. At least five people are dead and six others are missing, local authorities said. All 11 victims are believed to belong to the same family, said Nguyen Quang, the district’s deputy chairman. Search and rescue operations are ongoing, he said.

Storm Molave, which made landfall Wednesday morning and weakened into a tropical depression by 4 p.m., uprooted many trees and damaged hundreds of buildings. Nearly 230 houses collapsed and some 88,600 others had their roofs blown away.

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