Vietnam floods, landslides death toll hits 54

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A farmer pulls a boat loaded with harvested paddy on a flooded rice field in the northern province of Ha Nam on October 12, 2017

The death toll from devastating floods and landslides in north and central Vietnam has jumped to 54, officials said Friday, in one of the deadliest weather disasters to hit the country in years.

Rescuers were desperately searching for 39 people still missing after heavy rains pounded several provinces this week, with forecasters warning of another major storm heading toward the country.

Villages, roads and homes across several provinces remained submerged Friday, as authorities tried to clear roads and reach isolated residents in the mountainous north, which was hit by deadly landslides.

Entire families were killed in some areas as rivers tore a destructive path through villages and towns.

Hoang Phuc Son said he lost two children and two grandchildren as flood waters slammed into their house in Yen Bai province.

"We had no time to run. My children couldn't run because water was coming in from all sides... my children and their two kids were swept away," said Son, choking back tears.

The body of a Vietnam News Agency reporter was recovered Friday after he was washed away by a swollen river in Yen Bai province while reporting on the floods this week.

Thousands of police and soldiers were deployed to help search efforts, reinforce dikes and hand out food as the death toll jumped from 37 people on Thursday.

"We have mobilised more than 2,500 soldiers and policemen and thousands of civilians for rescue and relief efforts," said Do Duc Duy, chairman of the Yen Bai People's Committee.

In recent days floods submerged or destroyed 33,000 houses, wiped out swathes of farmland, and left several dikes badly damaged, Vietnam's Disaster Management Authority said.

Northern Hoa Binh province -- where a state of emergency was declared this week -- was the hardest hit with 17 dead and 15 missing, followed by central Thanh Hoa province where 14 were killed, the disaster agency added.

And the country is bracing for yet more adverse weather, with forecasters predicting that tropical storm Khanun will intensify over the South China Sea and could hit Vietnam early next week.

Vietnam has already been hit by severe rain and storms this year, with nearly 170 people dead or missing before the latest bout of bad weather. Typhoon Doksuri killed 11 people and caused widespread destruction last month when it slammed into central Vietnam.

The country is routinely hit by tropical storms from May to October, frequently lashing its central coast. More than 150 people died when Tropical Storm Ketsana tore through the country in 2009.