Hydroelectric dam probe to begin as Laos waters recede

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Investigations have begun into the collapse of a dam in south-eastern Laos which left at least 24 people dead and more than 100 others missing.

Floodwaters that rose to the rooftops are slowly receding as villages begin digging out of the deluge of mud from the dam’s failure on Monday.

The state-run Vientiane Times reported that thousands of people stranded by the disaster had been rescued by Wednesday.

It cited Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith as saying that more than 3,000 people were left homeless when the auxiliary dam of a joint venture hydroelectric project with two South Korean companies gave way after days of torrential rain.

Hundreds travelled by boat, bus and trucks to shelters in nearby towns. The Red Cross, South Korean government and other organisations rushed water purifiers, food and other aid to the area.

“The water came so quick we just left the house and ran away,” said Phon Vuongchonpu, whose family of 12 fled as the floodwater rose to roof level.

“We’ve lost everything: Motorbike, furniture, our cows and pigs.”

Bounyong Phommachak, a Red Cross official, said 24 bodies had been recovered.

The exact circumstances of the dam’s collapse remain murky.

SK Engineering & Construction, one of the two South Korean partners in the hydroelectric project, said the dam began failing on Sunday, while Korea Western Power, the other partner, said the dam began visibly weakening on Friday.

SK Engineering sent its president and an emergency team to help with the rescue and repair effort.

“We will find out causes of the incident thoroughly and take necessary actions quickly,” it said in a statement.
Continued heavy rain and strong winds forecast for the area could hinder recovery efforts, and risks from flooding persisted in the mountainous region.