Dam bust floods hit Cambodia

Dam bust floods hit Cambodia

Laos tragedy spreads tentacles downstream

Flash floods triggered by the collapse of a hydropower dam in southern Laos have hit 17 villages in Stung Treng province in northeastern Cambodia, according to Cambodian authorities.

Cambodia's Siempang district in the province is about 187km downstream of the collapsed Xe- Pian Xe-Namnoy dam in Laos.

"More than 5,000 families living in those villages in four communes are being affected from the flash flooding," Keo Vy, a spokesman for the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM), told the media.

"Our authorities have evacuated some 1,289 families with 5,619 people to safe places, as the rest of the affected families do not want to leave their homes citing a slow rise of water levels," he said.

According to the spokesman, the water levels on the Sekong River in Siempang district rose to the alarm level of 11.5 metres on Wednesday evening, up from 11.3m in the morning.

Keo Vy said that there were no reports of casualties on the Cambodian side thanks to the swift rescue operation by local authorities.

The dam, located on Xe- Pian and Xe- Namnoy rivers in Champassak province and Attapeu province of Laos, collapsed on Monday and unleashed flash flooding into the Xe Pian River, affecting six villages in Attapeu province's Sanamxay district.

The Xe- Pian River and Xe- Namnoy River flow into the Sekong River, a major tributary of the Mekong River, in Cambodia's Stung Treng province.

Twenty-seven people have been confirmed dead in Laos following the dam's collapse, with 131 still missing.

Residents recalled their terror as water rushed through their homes.

Tran Van Bien, 47, from Ban Mai village close to the ruined dam said he was told to evacuate just two hours before the dam burst, running to a neighbour's house with his family as his home quickly filled with water.

"We were on the roof of that house the whole night, cold and scared. At 4am a wooden boat passed and we decided to send my wife and my kid out," he said from a nearby village where he eventually found dry land. "My wife tied our child to her body, saying if they died, they would die together rather than being alone."

Lao authorities have so far appeared to block foreign journalists from covering the incident inside the country.

The Lao Press Department issued a statement to foreign media yesterday, saying: "We are not ready to provide you the journalist visa (M-B2) to cover the news of an accident of the Xe- Pian Xe- Namnoy's construction at Attapeu province."

The department meanwhile requested foreign journalists to follow through on the disaster from the official data released by Lao authorities.

Meanwhile, relief supplies granted by His Majesty the King have reached Laos.

Chana Miencharoen, consul at the Royal Thai Consulate-General in Laos' Savannakhet province, said yesterday the items, which included 10,000 bottles of water, 2,000 towels, 49 water purification machines as well as food and medical supplies, were transported from Thailand to Laos by C-130 aircraft on Wednesday.

They have been ferried to the disaster zone, he said.

Air force spokesman AVM Pongsak Semacha said C-130 aircraft made two round trips to Laos yesterday to deliver 1,000 tents and other relief supplies. Some 20 air force officers also helped unload the items at Pakse International Airport in Laos.

The spokesman said another two flights would be conducted today to deliver 1,000 relief bags given by HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha. Around 30 air force officers will join the journey.

Kampaypanh Thongdy, vice consul-general of the consulate-general of Laos in Khon Kaen, received donated relief supplies yesterday at Kosa Hotel in Khon Kaen.

Authorities in Attapeu told him the province is still short of food, medicine, tents, clothes and blankets as thousands of households have been displaced while heavy rains persist, he added.

The Lao National Disaster Management Office asked Thailand to supply mobile toilets, bottles of water, tents and flat-bottomed boats for those in the affected areas.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said Thailand's assistance would be billed as part of "Asean culture" in which people in the region live in a multicultural, transborder society.

"I think the situation will ease due to the declining water level. The next hurdle is restoration, which concerns how people make a living. This is the second step for which we are going to give assistance," Gen Prayut said.

To help reach that goal, Thai rescue volunteers from the HUK 31 Foundation in Nakhon Ratchasima worked with Lao rescue workers yesterday to reach victims.

One team was deployed to look for 15 missing people in Ban Sai Don Khong in Attapeu with three boats. They reportedly struggled to keep moving forward as the water levels in some areas had declined.

Another team was sent to rescue 700 stranded residents in Ban Tammayod in Champassak province.

Twelve rescue volunteers from the Sawang Mongkol Satta Dhamma Sathan Foundation in Phetchabun passed through the border crossing at Chong Mek in Ubon Ratchathani to Laos yesterday morning to join the rescue mission.

Public Health Minister Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn yesterday said he had ordered the formation of an emergency centre to provide healthcare services for the flood victims.

Opas Kankawinpong, deputy permanent secretary for health, said a surveillance and rapid response team had been sent to the affected locations, while the Transport Ministry ordered 10,000 relief bags to be delivered to the disaster zone.


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