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Laos dam collapse: Hundreds missing after flash floods hit villages

Media captionBoats bring flood-hit villagers to safety. Pictures: Attapeu Today

Hundreds of people are missing and an unknown number dead after a dam under construction collapsed in south-east Laos, state media reported.

The collapse at the hydroelectric dam in Attapeu province late on Monday sent flash floods through six villages, Lao News Agency said.

More than 6,600 people have been made homeless, it added.

Pictures showed villagers stranded on the roofs of submerged house and boats carrying people to safety.

“The disaster has claimed several human lives [and] left hundreds of people missing,” the agency reported.

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Image caption

The surge of water submerged homes and forced villagers to seek safety on the roof

The reason for the collapse of the Xepian-Xe Nam Noy dam is not clear. Its construction began in 2013 and it was due to begin generating power this year.

The incident follows heavy rain and flooding across southern Laos.

SK Engineering & Construction, a South Korean company with a stake in the project, told Reuters news agency that it was “planning to help evacuate and rescue residents in villages near the dam”.

Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith has postponed government meetings and gone to the affected area in Sanamxay district with senior officials to monitor relief efforts, state media said.

Local authorities have appealed to government bodies and other communities to help provide emergency aid for the victims such as clothing, food, drinking water and medicine.

Hydroelectric ambitions in Laos

  • The government in Laos has launched an ambitious dam-building scheme to become the “battery of Asia”
  • Laos sits on the Mekong River and its tributaries – a perfect location for hydro power
  • The country has 39 hydroelectric power plants, and 53 more are being planned or built
  • By 2020, Laos also plans to build 54 more electricity transmission lines and 16 substations
  • Laos already exports two thirds of its hydropower, with electricity making up roughly 30% of all Laotian exports

Sources: Hydropower.org and the Laotian Times

Laos dam collapse: Hundreds missing after flash floods hit villages

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