Vietnam troops hunts for survivors after typhoon kills 31

HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam hunted for survivors on Thursday after landslides triggered by Typhoon Molave, one of its strongest storms in decades, lashed a central region already reeling from weeks of heavy rains that have killed at least 160 people.

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Hundreds of soldiers with heavy equipment were deployed to landslides in remote areas of Quang Nam province, where 19 people were killed and 12 were missing.

At the site of one landslide that buried a village of 53 people, rescue workers pulled 33 survivors from the mud, the Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.

“The whole village was flattened,” Ho Thi Ha, who lost her father in the landslide, told Tuoi Tre.

“There’s nothing left”.

As well as the dead scores more were still missing, mostly in landslides, as a result of a succession of storms which have hammered Vietnam since early October.

The bodies of 12 fishermen were found at sea on Thursday and the navy was searching for 14 others missing since their boats sank while trying to come ashore two days earlier, state broadcaster VTV reported.

“We can forecast the storm path or the amount of rain, but can’t predict when landslides happen,” Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung said in a statement.

Complicating rescue efforts has been the emergence of un-exploded bombs, revealed by heavy rains. At least seven American MK82 bombs from the U.S.-Vietnam war were discovered in the central province of Quang Tri on Thursday, state media said.

More than a million people have been affected for weeks by the storms, which have caused heavy rains and some of the worst flooding in years in central Vietnam, pushing relief agencies to their limits.

Molave hit the Philippines at the weekend and deaths there from mudslides and floods rose to 16 on Thursday.

It damaged 56,000 homes in Vietnam and left millions without electricity, with heavy rain expected in the central region until Saturday.

The typhoon weakened to a tropical depression after making landfall on Wednesday and by Thursday afternoon, the skies over the worst affected areas had cleared, VTV said, helping rescue efforts.

Reporting by Phuong Nguyen; Additional reporting by Neil Jerome Morales in Manila; Writing by James Pearson; Editing by Ed Davies and Jon Boyle