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19 people dead, 49 missing after dam collapse in Laos

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-07-25 12:45

Villagers are seen stranded on rooftops of houses after an under-construction dam collapsed in Attapeu, Laos, on July 24, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]

VIENTIANE - About 19 people had been confirmed dead and 49 others remained missing after an under-construction dam collapsed in southern Laos, local media quoted unofficial reports from Attapeu Administration office as saying on Wednesday.

The collapse of the Xepian-Xe Nam Noy hydropower dam triggered flash flood in seven villages of Sanamxay district, in Lao's southern Attapeu Province.

Some 6,000 people of 1,300 families in the villages were affected by the flooding, Sanamxay district Governor Bounhom Phommasane told the Vientiane Times.

He said about 2,851 people had been rescued till Wednesday morning in the district.

"A second step for us will to recover and identify the deceased, but for now we hurry to find those who are still alive in the area," he said.

Meanwhile, the Lao government website reported that at least seven bodies had been recovered and 20 villagers missing.

The seven bodies were recovered from the village of Mai and 20 missing from the village of Saydounkeng. Rescue personnel were still collecting the number of casualties from other villages.

Video clips and photos on social media showed flood-water levels going up to the ceiling, forcing villagers and animals to seek shelter on rooftops.

Initial reports said several were killed and hundreds missing following the accident in the landlocked country.

"Villagers have sought shelter on their roofs, and some climbed up trees to escape the flood waters," an official of the provincial rescue operation board said on condition of anonymity.

Helicopters and boats have been deployed for the rescue operation to search for the missing, district governor Bounhome Phommasane told Vientiane Times on Tuesday.

Some people have been rescued and are sheltering at the facilities of the district's main municipality.

Rescuers are battling with time as the water level is poised to rise, the governor said, adding that the number of affected villages are likely to grow.

Moderate and heavy rains with strong winds are forecast for some areas in central and southern provinces in the coming days, which could worsen the situation, the Lao Meteorology and Hydrology Department warned.

The Lao government declared the flooded area an emergency disaster zone on Tuesday. Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith suspended the planned government meeting and rushed to Sanamxay to monitor rescue and relief efforts for victims.

Photo taken on July 24, 2018 shows a flooded area after an under-construction dam collapsed in Attapeu, Laos. [Photo/Xinhua]

The cabinet has entrusted the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare in collaboration with the Ministry of National Defence and Attapeu provincial authorities to urgently appoint an Ad Hoc Committee to mobilize aid and relief supplies to help the victims.

The under-construction dam collapsed at 8:00 pm local time (1300 GMT) on Monday, releasing 5 billion cubic meters of water in hours.

The Attapeu Provincial Administration Office has announced relief aid for flood victims.

Being constructed by Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy Power Company (PNPC), a joint venture of South Korean, Thai and Lao companies, the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy hydroelectric power project is estimated to coast $1.02 billion, and to have an annual electricity generation of approximately 1,860 GWh.

Feasibility study for the hydroelectric project was completed in November 2008. Construction of the project began in February 2013 and commercial operations are expected to begin in 2018.

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