The death count from a landslide triggered by monsoon rains in eastern Myanmar rose to at least 56, an official said on Monday, as emergency workers continued 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 more than a dozen village houses.
Search and rescue teams have been working since Friday night, using excavators and their bare hands to recover bodies from the deep sludge. Zaw Zaw Htoo, a member of parliament from Paung who arrived at the scene over the weekend, said three more bodies were recovered on Monday morning, bringing the death toll to 56. However, some farm animals, like cows and goats, have survived the calamity and are found alive.
The top official in Mon state, Aye Zan, had visited the site and villagers who were evacuated to a relief camp to escape floods following torrential rains. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that monsoon flooding had displaced more than 7,000 people last week in Mon state.
Rescue workers on Sunday 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.
Apart from the landslide in Paung, houses and a school in other townships were washed away, roads were blocked and villages were submerged. Nearly 12,000 people have been displaced in Myanmar last week alone, bringing the total number of those in evacuation centers to more than 38,000, the UN said.
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.
(With inputs from agencies)