Rescue continues as scores missing, 24 dead following Laos dam collapse
More than 6,000 lose their home; thousands more await rescue on rooftops
People walk through flooded area after being brought to safety by boat in Sanam Xay district, Attapeu Province, Laos. Photograph: Attapeu Today/Reuters
Rescuers are searching for scores of villagers missing after part of a newly-built hydroelectric dam broke in south-eastern Laos, flooding the surrounding countryside and killing at least 24 people.
More than 6,000 people lost their homes when the South Korean-built Xepian-Xe Nam Noy hydropower facility gave way in Attapeu province on Monday, devastating surrounding villages.
Hundreds of people have taken shelter in nearby towns, travelling by bus and pickup trucks and sleeping on plastic sheeting.
Red Cross official Bounyong Phommachak said 24 bodies had been recovered and 96 people are officially listed as missing.
He said about 6,600 people have been displaced from their homes.
While nearly 3,000 had been plucked to safety, more than that number were awaiting rescue, many on the rooftops of submerged homes.
Photos and videos posted on social media showed people sitting on rooftops to escape the surging water, while others were carried to safety or rescued by boat.
One of five auxiliary earth-fill dams at the project began visibly weakening on Friday, according to Korea Western Power, one of two South Korean partners in the hydroelectric project.
SK Engineering and Construction, the other Korean joint venture partner, said the top of the dam was swept away on Sunday as workers were struggling to control the damage amid heavy rain.
The situation worsened on Monday as water cascaded out of the reservoir, flooding seven out of 12 villages in the area, SK E&C said. It was helping to evacuate and rescue residents and sent its president and a team of 30 people to the disaster zone.
Continued heavy rain and strong winds forecast for the area could hinder rescue efforts, and risks from flooding persist in the mountainous region.
A report by the Mekong River Commission said storms had caused water levels along the river to rise by between 9ft and 15ft in the past week.
Provincial authorities issued a call for emergency aid, and residents in Paksong are streaming to the evacuation shelter bringing food, as doctors attend to those needing help.
The International Red Cross said food was a concern because village food supplies were drenched in the flooding. It is arranging for water purification units to be sent to the area to ensure supplies of clean drinking water.
South Korean president Moon Jae-in has ordered an emergency relief team to help with the disaster.–PA