07/27/2018, 15.46
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Wave from Laos dam collapse hits Cambodia

Evacuations underway in the northeastern province of Stung Treng, on the border with Laos. Rescuers' efforts continue. 27 dead are ascertained; 131 missing. Message of condolences from the Archbishop of Seoul and a contribution of 43 thousand euros for aid.


Vientiane (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Thousands of Cambodians living along the banks of the Mekong River are being evacuated by the authorities, while the river of water caused by the collapse of a dam in nearby Laos falls to the valley. 

Soldiers are helping villagers in the northeastern province of Stung Treng, transporting them on wooden boats to higher lands. First aid is being distributed to those who have already found refuge on the mainland. "The water level is still increasing, so we will evacuate other people," said the spokesman for the Men Kong government.

In the remote Lao province of Attapeu, rescuers are engaged in a race against time and heavy rains, in an attempt to save the victims of the flood caused by the partial collapse of the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy dam. 

The state media confirmed yesterday the death of 27 people, while the missing are 131. 

Over 3 thousand villagers at the hydroelectric plant await the rescue teams clinging to the roofs of submerged houses. Approximately 2,800 have already been rescued. The homeless are more than 6,600.

Experts from China, Vietnam and Thailand joined the Laotian soldiers and local volunteers in search and rescue operations. Yesterday afternoon, a Singapore military plane landed in the country to deliver essential goods worth 176 thousand euros. On the same day, a team from the Singaporean Red Cross (Src) reached the epicenter of the disaster. The arrival of a second aircraft, which carries 11 large modular tents, is scheduled for today by the city-state.

Like the government, the Church of South Korea also supports the rescue efforts.  The Archbishop of Seoul, Card. Andrew Soo-jung Yeom, this morning sent a message of condolences to the victims of the tragedy through the apostolic vicariate of Paksé, which includes the province of Attapeu. 

Fr Tito Banchong Thopanhong, apostolic administrator of Luang Prabang, tells AsiaNews that Catholics in the whole vicariate are 15 thousand (just over 1% of the population) and Attapeu "are very few".

In his message, Card. Yeom expresses "profound sadness for the loss of human lives and injuries" and prays for the "rest of the dead and the consolation of God for those who suffer the loss of family and friends". Card. Yeom also offered a contribution of 43 thousand euros to the apostolic delegate in Laos, Msgr. Paul In-Nam Tschang.

The scale of the disaster is still unclear, in a country whose communist authorities exercise strict control over information and do not like media attention. As the waters retreat, villagers begin to return to what remains of their homes, hoping to recover some belongings.

Yesterday some of the displaced people returned to Hoi Kong, making their way through carts and trunks dragged by water along roadsides. Almost all the houses have been destroyed and the disaster has also hit the cattle: as in the nearby village of Khokong, numerous carcasses of animals are emerging from the mud.

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