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Myanmar landslide kills 41, many more feared missing

A man looks back at a vehicle destroyed after a landslide in Paung township, Mon state. Photograph:( AFP )

AFP Mawlamyine, Myanmar Aug 10, 2019, 10.59 PM (IST)

The death toll from a landslide triggered by monsoon rains in eastern Myanmar rose to at least 41, an official said late Saturday, as emergency workers continued for a second night their desperate search through thick mud for the scores feared missing.

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 27 homes.

Search and rescue teams worked through Friday night and into late Saturday, using excavators and their bare hands to recover bodies from the deep sludge. 

"The death toll has risen to 41," township administrator Zaw Moe Aung told AFP on Saturday.

Some farm animals, like cows and goats, were found alive, but "there are no humans left alive," he said, adding that the search operations will push through for a second night. 

So far, 47 people have been injured while officials believe that about 80 people could still be missing. 

Myanmar is battered annually by a monsoon season which strikes countries across Southeast Asia, leaving tens of thousands displaced from flooded homes and setting off deadly landslides.

Aerial pictures of Ye Pyar Kone village showed shattered remnants of rooftops and other debris from the houses strewn next to trucks knocked over by the force of the onslaught.

Its 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 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.

- Mud and water -

Rescue workers on Saturday continued to carry out excavated bodies wrapped in plastic to waiting ambulances, wading through pools of water and ankle-deep sludge.

Crying relatives of the missing watched on helpless under a steady torrent of rain, as nearby floodwaters edged closer to the village. 

Tin Htay, who escaped with his family from their home, described 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.

Story highlights

Myanmar is battered annually by a monsoon season which strikes countries across Southeast Asia, leaving tens of thousands displaced from flooded homes and setting off deadly landslides