At least 26 dead, 131 missing after Laos dam collapse

At least 26 dead, 131 missing after Laos dam collapse

Rescuers recovered 26 bodies and 131 people remain missing after a dam collapse swamped several villages in southern Laos, as survivors yesterday questioned why they got little warning of the deluge.

Two South Korean contractors said they reported damage at least a day before parts of the Xe-Namnoy Dam gave way on Monday evening and unleashed a wall of water.

Thai consular official Chana Miencharoen said at the scene of the relief effort in Attapeu Province that by late yesterday afternoon 26 bodies had been recovered.

“Seventeen others are injured and in hospital,” he said, adding roof-level floodwater was hampering rescue efforts in a remote area of the poor, landlocked Southeast Asian nation.

In an update yesterday evening, Laotian Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith said 131 people remained unaccounted for.

Questions began to emerge over the collapse, with some of the displaced saying they were warned to evacuate their 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, Ban Hin Lath, said from a warehouse crammed with more than 700 displaced people in a neighboring 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.”

The South Korean companies involved in the US$1.2 billion project said damage was reported a day before the dam collapsed following heavy monsoon rain.

SK Engineering & Construction said it discovered that the upper part of the structure had washed away at about 9pm on Sunday.

“We immediately alerted the authorities and began evacuating villagers downstream,” it said in a statement.

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