Typhoon Gay regained intensity Monday as it moved toward India, leaving in its wake sunken ships, destroyed villages and flooded towns, officials said.
An estimated 400 sailors, including 85 from the capsized American drill ship Seacrest, were missing at sea while dozens were killed in Thai villages flattened and flooded by the storm, the officials said.As of Monday afternoon, searchers had rescued six crewmen from the Seacrest, which capsized in the typhoon Friday. Divers have recovered six bodies from the hull of the ship.
The ship, owned by the Thai subsidiary of the California-based energy company Unocal, carried a crew of 97 men from 13 countries.
Typhoon Gay, which was downgraded to a tropical storm after smashing across the narrow neck of southern Thailand, regained typhoon intensity as it roared through the Andaman Sea toward India about 600 miles to the west, a Thai meteorology department official said. The storm was moving at about 10 mph.
The typhoon, which pounded Thailand with winds of more than 75 mph, was the most powerful to hit the country since the meteorology department began keeping records 50 years ago, the official said. In 1962, a tropical storm killed about 1,000 people on low-lying land in southern Thailand.
Prime Minister Chatichai Choonhavan flew to southern Thailand to inspect the damage, said government spokesman Suvit Yodmanee.
Suvit said there have been at least 30 confirmed deaths on land from the storm. Government television, however, reported 52 people were killed in three districts of Chumpon province, 250 miles south of Bangkok.
He said more than 3,500 houses were destroyed and more than 65,000 people seriously affected by the typhoon.
In the Gulf of Thailand, the storm sank or capsized at least 38 ships including the Seacrest, said navy spokesman Capt. Sanya Bhutiyothin. Another nine boats were still unaccounted for, he said.
Navy officials earlier said that each of the missing boats carried about 10 to 20 crewmen. With the 85 still unaccounted for from the Seacrest, more than 400 sailors were believed missing, they said.
Sanya said 12 navy planes and 15 ships were searching the Gulf in addition to fishing boats and ships from the marine police and Unocal.