HUMAN FLOOD

Thai rescuers will join hands with their Lao counterparts in rescuing about 800 local villagers who are stranded on a mountain after escaping the big floods caused by the collapse of a dam in Attapeu province.

Although they escaped the floods, they are however marooned on the mountain as the floodwater has inundated the entire Sai Don Khong village. The villagers are in urgent need of food, rice, water and medicine. It is reported that 15 people were missing during the evacuation.The Isan Nua rescuers from Thailand travelled to Laos’ affected area through the Chong Mek pass in Ubon Ratchathani province. The Customs authority at Chong Mek is acting as a centre of assistance for Laotians suffered hardships due to the inundation in Laos.

Many groups of Thai rescuers have poured into Laos to help rescue large numbers of people affected by the flash floods following the collapse of a part of the under-construction Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy dam due to heavy rains. The death toll as of now stands at 26.

Thousands of people in northern Cambodia have been evacuated after the collapse of the dam in neighbouring Laos caused the rivers to flood to dangerous levels.

Laos dam collapse: 3,000 in need of rescue as death toll rises to 26
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Authorities in Stung Treng province scrambled to carry out an emergency evacuation of 1,200 families after five billion cubic metres of water gushed into the rivers and surrounding landscape when the Xe-Namnoy hydropower dam in south-eastern Laos, on the border with Cambodia, broke under pressure on Tuesday night.

The collapse of the dam has reportedly led to the deaths of at least 26 people, though the prime minister said on Wednesday that only one person had died so far, and displaced more than 6,000 families in the Attapeu area of Laos. With 3,000 still in need of rescue, clinging to treetops and sitting on roofs, and 131 still officially reported missing, the death toll is expected to rise.

Villages along the Sekong River in Cambodia, which is downstream from the same Xepian-Xe Nam Noy river system which fed the dam in Laos, fell victim to the rising water levels caused by the collapse. Water levels continued to rise into Wednesday, reaching as high as 11.5 metres in some areas and leaving entire homes underwater.

Men Kong, a spokesman for the provincial government, said families from 17 villages across four communes had now been evacuated, and that 700 soldiers, police and rescuers had been sent to help the operation.

In Laos, a notoriously secretive Communist state, information about the extent of the devastation trickled out slowly as rescuers made their way to the remote site. Most of the 6,000 displaces people took shelter in villages in neighbouring areas, coming to terms with their realisation that their homes and all their possessions had been washed away or destroyed.

Brian Eyler, director of the Stimson Center’s south-east Asia program said that “beyond any doubt, this was a man-made disaster”.

“It is very unlikely the Cambodian villages were notified of any incoming floodwater,” he said. “Since this is a tributary system of the Mekong river, there is no built-in warning system for flood or disaster management between Laos and Cambodia.”

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