Digging deep: Rescuers work non-stop in search for landslide victims

A makeshift altar and burning incense lend solemn company as hundreds work non-stop to find workers buried by a landslide in central Vietnam.

Rao Trang 3 hydropower plant, Thua Thien-Hue Province, central Vietnam, landslide, flooding, heavy rains, floods

At 6:30 a.m. Saturday, after having breakfast on the premises of the Rao Trang 4 hydropower plant, rescue workers, mostly in military fatigues, started moving to the Rao Trang 3 hydropower plant about 10 kilometers away. They were continuing their mission to search for those missing almost two weeks after a landslide buried 17 workers near the plant.
From Rao Trang 4, the rescuers are transported by canoe for about 30 minutes, then they board a dump truck to reach the accident site near the Rao Trang 3 power plant. The site is around 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) from the office of the Phong Xuan Commune People's Committee in Phong Dien District, Thua Thien-Hue Province.
The landslide, following days of heavy rains, hit on October 12 when 17 workers were asleep. As of Sunday morning, just five bodies had been retrieved.

Rao Trang 3 hydropower plant, Thua Thien-Hue Province, central Vietnam, landslide, flooding, heavy rains, floods

After Road No. 71, which connects Rao Trang 4 and Rao Trang 3, was cleared, seven bulldozers and five dump trucks were mobilized to look for the missing workers. Nearly 100 people, including police officers, soldiers and hydropower plant workers, are participating in the rescue mission.

Rao Trang 3 hydropower plant, Thua Thien-Hue Province, central Vietnam, landslide, flooding, heavy rains, floods

After the bodies of two workers were discovered near the bank of a stream Friday afternoon, rescue forces intensified search operations in the area.

Rao Trang 3 hydropower plant, Thua Thien-Hue Province, central Vietnam, landslide, flooding, heavy rains, floods

Senior Lieutenant Colonel Tran Van Lau (L), deputy head of the Police Department of Fire Prevention and Fighting and Rescue in Thua Thien-Hue Province, discusses some aspect of the rescue operation with Phan Thien Dinh, vice chairman of the central province. Authorities had called for rescue efforts to be stepped up as heavy rain was expected to hit Thua Thien-Hue because of Storm Saudel, expected to weaken into a tropical depression as it makes landfall late on Sunday.

Rao Trang 3 hydropower plant, Thua Thien-Hue Province, central Vietnam, landslide, flooding, heavy rains, floods

Rescue forces demolish large rocks on the banks of a local stream where they hope to find more victims.

Rao Trang 3 hydropower plant, Thua Thien-Hue Province, central Vietnam, landslide, flooding, heavy rains, floods

A drill is being used to break up a large concrete block next to the stream.

Rao Trang 3 hydropower plant, Thua Thien-Hue Province, central Vietnam, landslide, flooding, heavy rains, floods

An employee of the RaoTrang 3 hydropower plant burns incense at the site to commemorate his dead colleagues.

Rao Trang 3 hydropower plant, Thua Thien-Hue Province, central Vietnam, landslide, flooding, heavy rains, floods

A small altar of flowers, fruits, cakes and incense has been placed in the middle of RaoTrang 3 area.

Rao Trang 3 hydropower plant, Thua Thien-Hue Province, central Vietnam, landslide, flooding, heavy rains, floods

Around 4 p.m. on Sunday the fifth body was found near the mountainside next to a dump truck buried by rubble. Landslide survivors and relatives have confirmed that the body is of Truong Van Noi of Loc Ha District in the central province of Ha Tinh. He is believed to have been thrown from an excavator when the landslide occurred.
"Based on information from landslide survivors, rescue teams had focused on the buried excavator area while searching for the missing victims," one rescuer said.

Rao Trang 3 hydropower plant, Thua Thien-Hue Province, central Vietnam, landslide, flooding, heavy rains, floods

About 100 meters from the accident site are field camps set up for the rescuers to rest. Given the risk of further landslides, the rescuers return to Rao Trang 4 and stay there overnight before continuing the search the next morning.

Rao Trang 3 hydropower plant, Thua Thien-Hue Province, central Vietnam, landslide, flooding, heavy rains, floods

About 300 meters from the site is also a makeshift accommodation for construction workers at the Rao Trang 3 plant. After the landslide, many workers have voluntarily stayed on to join rescue forces in looking for their colleagues.
"We are pushing ourselves to find the bodies of our missing colleagues at any cost and then bring them to their hometowns for proper funeral services," said Truong Quang Duong.
Search operations are ongoing for the remaining 12 landslide victims.

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