The known death toll from a massive dam collapse in southern Laos is now at 31, though more than 100 people remain missing weeks after the disaster that swept away entire villages.
Information about the number of dead and missing has trickled out of the disaster zone since the July 23 disaster in a secretive state unaccustomed to organizing large-scale rescue operations.
And the numbers of dead and missing have fluctuated wildly, with officials and state media offering conflicting information in the days after the dam burst.
But OunlaXayasith, deputy governor of Attapeu province where the dam system is sited, has revealed that searchers found more bodies at the weekend “and put the death toll at 31, while the number of missing is at 130.”
The dam – a US$1.2 billion (HK$9.33 billion) venture involving South Korean, Thai and Laotian firms – broke open suddenly after heavy rains and submerged about a dozen villages in one of the poorest provinces.
Search and rescue teams then spent days wading through thick, knee-deep mud in many areas while elsewhere people on boats navigated still-flooded regions.
The massive search effort has been complicated by the remote location of the disaster. The area had little infrastructure before the accident.
Minister of Energy and Mines Khammany Inthirath has said poor construction may have contributed to the disaster, though authorities were preparing to launch an investigation into the cause.