VIENTIANE (Xinhua) – As search and rescue efforts continued, Sanamxay district Governor Bounhom Phommasane has said 19 people have been “found dead”, more than 3,000 “require rescue” and about 2,851 have been saved as of yesterday morning.
He told the Vientiane Times that about 6,000 people of 1,300 families in seven villages were affected by flash floods after the under-construction Xepian-Xe Nam Noy hydropower dam collapsed in southern Laos’ Attapeu province on 24.
“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.
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.
Attapeu is a largely agricultural province that borders Vietnam to the east and Cambodia to the south.
The dam that collapsed is part of the hydroelectric Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy power project, which involves Laotian, Thai and South Korean firms. The subsidiary dam, known as “Saddle Dam D”, was part of a network of two main dams and five subsidiary dams.
South Korea’s SK Engineering & Construction said part of a small supply dam was washed away and the company was cooperating with the Laos government to help rescue villagers near the site.
The firm blamed the collapse on heavy rain. Laos, and its neighboring countries, are in the middle of the monsoon season when tropical storms and heavy rain can lead to flash floods.
An official at the firm said fractures were first discovered on the dam on Sunday and that the company had ordered the evacuation of 12 villages as soon as it became clear the dam could collapse.
Laos has completed construction of 11 dams, according to Thai NGO TERRA, with a further 11 under construction and dozens more planned.