Following the implosion of the dam, 5 billion cubic meters of water poured downstream, sweeping away houses and causing an unknown number of missing. More than 6 thousand residents of the eight surrounding villages are now homeless. The upper part of the structure was damaged 24 hours before it collapsed. The infrastructure project involves Laotian, Thai and South Korean companies. Seoul sends rescue teams.
Vientiane (AsiaNews / Agencies) - At least 20 people have died and more than 3,000 are waiting to be rescued after the collapse of a hydroelectric dam under construction in the southeastern province of Attapeu, according local media reports today. Quoting the governor of the San Sai district, Bounhom Phommasane, they state that "2,851 residents have already been rescued".
The tragedy took place two nights ago. Following the collapse of the Xe-Namnoy dam, a wall of water quantified in 5 billion cubic meters crashed downstream, sweeping away houses and causing an unknown number of missing. More than 6 thousand residents of the eight surrounding villages are now homeless. The remote territory is only accessible by helicopters and flat-bottomed boats. The roads are badly damaged or have been destroyed because of the sudden flooding.
The collapsed dam is part of a project by Xe Pian Xe Namnoy Power Company (Pnpc), a company based in Vientiane and formed by a joint venture in 2012. It involves Lao, Thai and South Korean companies. The subsidiary dam, known as "Saddle Dam D", was part of a network of two main and five secondary dams.
The South Korean company SK Engineering & Construction, one of the construction companies, said that part of a small refueling dam was overwhelmed by water. In a statement, the company claims to have discovered that the upper part of the structure was damaged 24 hours before it collapsed. The company had ordered the evacuation of 12 villages as soon as the collapse had seemed inevitable.
Meanwhile, South Korean President Moon Jae-in ordered the dispatch of an emergency rescue team to Laos. Moon said today that investigations into possible responsibilities can wait. "At the moment, we are working to identify the cause of the accident. However, the government must immediately take part in the relief efforts as our companies are also involved in the construction of the dam ".
Environmental groups have raised concerns about Laos hydroelectric ambitions for years, including fears about the impact of dams on the Mekong River; in particular, on its flora and fauna, on the rural communities and on the local economies that depend on it. Nevertheless, several dams are under construction or planned in the poor and landlocked communist country. It exports most of its hydroelectric energy to neighboring countries like Thailand.