Hundreds of people are missing and several are feared dead after a hydropower dam under construction in southern Laos collapsed, causing flash flooding that swept away homes, state media reported on Tuesday.
The disaster left more than 6,600 people homeless, the Lao News Agency reported. It showed pictures of villagers wading through muddy floodwater carrying belongings. Others boarded rickety wooden boats or stood on the roofs of partially submerged houses.
Officials have brought boats to help evacuate people in San Sai district of Attapeu province, where the Xepian-Xe Nam Noy hydropower dam is located, as water levels rise after the collapse, ABC Laos news reported.
The South Korean company building the dam said heavy rain and flooding caused the collapse and it was cooperating with the Laos government to help rescue villagers near the dam.
“We are running an emergency team and planning to help evacuate and rescue residents in villages near the dam,” a SK Engineering & Construction spokesman told Reuters by telephone.
Another official of SK Engineering & Construction said the company ordered the evacuation of 12 villages as soon as it became clear that the dam would collapse.
The South Korean foreign ministry said in a text message to reporters that 50 workers of the company and three from Korea Western Power who were stationed at the construction site had been evacuated.
The dam collapsed at 8:00 p.m. local time on Monday, releasing 5 billion cubic meters of water and several hundred people are missing after homes were swept away, the Lao News Agency said. It said several people had died.
A video posted by the ABC Laos news on its Facebook page showed villagers stopping to watch fast-flowing water from the side of a riverbank.
Another showed a distraught women getting into a wooden boat with her baby, saying that she had to wait to be rescued after the floodwater came and her mother was still trapped in a tree.
The prime minister of the Communist-run Southeast Asian nation, Thongloun Sisoulith, has suspended government meetings and led Cabinet members to monitor rescue and relief efforts in one of the affected areas, the state agency reported.