Laos dam collapse: Hundreds missing, feared dead as hydroelectric power plant gives way

More than 6,600 people have been left homeless

Samuel Osborne
Tuesday 24 July 2018 10:07 BST
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Houses immersed in muddy water after Laos dam collapse

Several people have been killed and hundreds are missing after a hydroelectric dam collapsed in southeastern Laos, releasing five billion cubic metres of water.

The Xepian-Xe Nam Noy hydropower dam in Attapeu province collapsed on Monday evening, releasing large amounts of water and sweeping away houses, according to state media.

The official news agency KPL said more than 6,600 people have been left homeless.

Officials have called in boats to help evacuate people in the San Sai district as water levels rise following the collapse of the dam, ABC Laos news reported.

A video posted by the news network on its Facebook page taken from a helicopter flying over the flooded region showed the roofs of submerged houses visible above the muddy water.

Provincial authorities issued a call for emergency aid – clothing, food, drinking water, medicine, cash and other items – from the “party, government organisations, business community, officials, police and military forces and people of all strata”.

Villagers were stranded on roofs after evacuating their homes after the Xepian-Xe Nam Noy dam collapsed in a village near Attapeu province (EPA/ABC Laos news)

The dam was constructed by a joint venture led by South Korean companies, with Thai and Lao partners.

The project, scheduled to begin operating this year, was still under construction, KPL reported.

It described the portion which collapsed as a “saddle dam”, an auxiliary dam used to hold water beyond what is held by the main dam.

The company building the dam said heavy rain and flooding caused the collapse and it was cooperating with the Laos government to help rescue villagers near the dam.

Lao villagers stranded on a roof of a house after they evacuated floodwaters (EPA/ABC Laos news)

“We are running an emergency team and planning to help evacuate and rescue residents in villages near the dam,” an SK Engineering and Construction spokesman told Reuters.

The prime minister of Laos, Thongloun Sisoulith, “suspended the planned monthly meeting of the government for August and led his cabinet members and other senior officials to Sanamxay [district] to monitor rescue and relief efforts being made for flood victims,” KPL said.

Many areas of Laos have recently been hit by flooding from seasonal rains.

Communist Laos, one of Asia’s poorest and most secretive countries, aims to become the “battery of Asia” by selling power to its neighbours through a series of hydropower dams.

For years, environmental rights groups have raised concerns about the southeast Asian nation’s hydropower ambitions, including worries over the impact of dams on the Mekong River, its flora and fauna and the rural communities and local economies which depend on it.

Additional reporting by agencies

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