Torrential rains triggered mudslides and floods that swept away entire villages in Thailand and Malaysia, killing at least 161 people and leaving hundreds of others missing, officials said Thursday.
“This is the worst flooding in 50 years,” said Chit Nilpanich, governor of Thailand’s Songkhla province, 480 miles south of Bangkok, the capital.
Thai officials said that 136 people died in seven southern provinces. Authorities in neighboring Malaysia said 25 people have been killed and more than 47,000 forced to flee to evacuation centers.
The death toll was expected to climb as rescue teams reach isolated villages, some of them submerged in floodwaters and mud.
“Many more people will die,” Chit said in a telephone interview.
Hundreds of foreign tourists in Thailand also were stranded at beach resorts as most road and rail links to the south remained severed by the floods.
The devastating downpours have come in the first month of the seasonal monsoon. Thai forecasters said the heavy rains probably would continue to plague the Southeast Asian nations at least through today.
The highest casualties and damage were reported in the interior mountain areas of southern Thailand.
Col. Banchon Chavansil, spokesman for the Thai Fourth Army Region, which includes all of southern Thailand, said that on Wednesday, a wave of mud and logs from a hilltop smashed through the village of Kratun in Nakorn Srithammarat province, about 360 miles south of Bangkok.
Banchon said rescue teams recovered 59 bodies in Kratun and airlifted 120 survivors to hospitals. He said the rescuers were digging through the mud in an effort to find at least 96 missing people.
In Malaysia, the heavy rains swelled major rivers until they spilled over their banks, flooding villages in low-lying regions of Pahang state.
Officials said the flooding along Malaysia’s east coast was the worst in two decades.