Nineteen dead, more than 3,000 in need of rescue, after Laos dam collapse

Nineteen dead, more than 3,000 in need of rescue, after Laos dam collapse

BANGKOK – Reuters
Nineteen dead, more than 3,000 in need of rescue, after Laos dam collapse

Nineteen people have been confirmed dead and more than 3,000 need to be rescued after a dam collapsed in a remote part of land-locked Laos, local media reported on July 25.

The Vientiane Times, citing district governor Bounhom Phommasane, said about 19 people have been “found dead,” more than 3,000 “require rescue” and about 2,851 have been saved.

Earlier, a senior Lao government official, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said dozens of people were feared dead after the hydropower dam that was under construction collapsed on July 23.

“We will continue with rescue efforts today but it’s very difficult, the conditions are very difficult. Dozens of people are dead. It could be higher,” the Vientiane-based official told Reuters by telephone.

Hundreds were reported missing after walls of water washed away villages and rescuers on July 25 continued to search floodwaters for survivors, a government official said.

State media showed pictures of villagers, some with young children, stranded on the roofs of submerged houses. Others showed villagers trying to board wooden boats to safety in Attapeu province, the southernmost part of the country.

At least seven villages have been submerged. State media pictures showed one-storey homes flooded with muddy water.

The remoteness of the affected area could hamper relief operations, say experts.

Laos, one of the world’s few remaining communist states and once of Asia’s poorest countries, has an ambitious dam-building scheme in order to become the “battery of Asia.”

Its government depends almost entirely on outside developers to build its planned portfolio of dams under commercial concessions that agree to export electricity to its more developed neighbors, including power-hungry Thailand.

Environment rights groups have repeatedly warned about the human and environmental cost of the rapid pace of dam construction, including damage to the already-fragile ecosystem of the region’s rivers.

Last year, the 15 megawatt Nam Ao hydropower dam collapsed in Laos’ northern Xieng Khuong province, the Vientiane Times reported, resulting in flash floods that “damaged property and risked lives.”

Laos, Accident, Far East