Laos Dam Disaster Kills 19

Laos Dam Disaster Kills 19Laos Dam Disaster Kills 19

Rescuers were searching on Wednesday for villagers left missing when part of a newly built dam broke in southeastern Laos, flooding the surrounding countryside and killing at least 19 people.

More than 6,000 people lost their homes when the dam gave way on Monday, flooding surrounding villages, reported AFP.

The exact number of victims was unclear. The official Lao news agency KPL said Tuesday afternoon that hundreds of people were missing, without providing details. Its latest report was of 19 confirmed killed.

The state-run Vientiane Times said in a report on its website that 49 people were believed missing as of Wednesday. It said the focus was on finding survivors and until they were all located the number of casualties would remain unclear.

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. State media said helicopters were also being used to rescue people.

SK Engineering & Construction, one of two South Korean partners in the project, said the top of one of five auxiliary earth-fill dams at the project “got swept away” on Sunday night after heavy rains.

But Korea Western Power, which was due to operate the hydroelectric power plant after its completion, said problems first emerged Friday when workers discovered the dam’s center had sunk by 11 centimeters.

Repair work for the earth-fill dam was hampered by heavy rain and damaged roads, and 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 while also trying to contain further damage.

The government declared the area a disaster zone and top officials rushed to the site, it said.

Continued heavy rain and strong winds forecast for the area could hinder rescue efforts, and risks from flooding persisted in the mountainous region.

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