MAROONED Residents wait for rescuers in Attapeu province after a dam collapsed on July 23. AFP PHOTO
Rescuers recovered 19 bodies and hundreds remain missing after a dam collapse swamped several villages in southern Laos, as survivors Wednesday questioned why they got little warning of the deluge.
Two South Korean contractors said they reported damage a day before parts of the Xe-Namnoy dam gave way Monday and unleashed a wall of water.
A Thai consular official, Chana Miencharoen, at the scene of the relief effort in Attepeu province told AFP 19 bodies had been recovered.
“Seventeen others are injured and in hospital,” he said, adding roof-level floodwater was hampering rescue efforts.\
In an update on Wednesday afternoon state-run Laos News Agency said hundreds of people remained unaccounted for, with at least 50 missing from the village of Ban Mai alone.
Footage on Laos television showed people huddled on roofs awaiting rescue as muddy water swirled menacingly just below them.
Questions began to emerge over the collapse, with some of the displaced saying they were warned to evacuate homes only hours before disaster struck.
“It happened quickly, we had little time to prepare ourselves,” Joo Hinla, 68, from one of the worst-hit villages of Ban Hin Lath, told AFP from a warehouse crammed with over 700 displaced people in a neighbouring province.
“All of the houses in my village are under water. Four of my family are missing, we don’t know about their fate yet.”
Hundreds of other displaced people, including women, children and the elderly, sat on the floor nearby surrounded by plastic bags crammed with meagre belongings.
The damming of Laos
Laos, poor but blessed with abundant natural resources, aims to become the “Battery of Asia” allowing dozens of foreign-funded dam projects across its network of rivers.
But fears over the environmental impact of the projects, which export most of their electricity to neighbouring Thailand and China, go virtually unvoiced inside the tightly controlled communist country.
Villagers across the country have been moved, some several times, to make way for dams whose benefits are mainly enjoyed outside of the country, campaigners say.
Once complete, around 90 percent of the electricity generated by the Xe-Namnoy dam was destined for Thailand.
The remote flooded area is only accessible by helicopter and flat-bottomed boats, with roads badly damaged or completely washed away.
Rescue officials in neighbouring Thailand were reportedly stuck at the border because Laotians were sluggish in allowing access to the country.
South Korea was sending a relief team to the area, President Moon Jae-in’s spokesman said Wednesday in Seoul.
AFP / BY AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE ON JULY 26, 2018
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