Hundreds Missing, Feared Dead After Laos Dam Gives Out

More than 6K people have been left homeless after reported collapse of Xepian-Xe Nam Noy dam
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 24, 2018 8:43 AM CDT
Hundreds Missing, Feared Dead After Laos Dam Gives Out
Villagers take refuge on a rooftop above floodwater from a collapsed dam in the Attapeu district of southeastern Laos on Tuesday.   (Attapeu Today via AP)

Hundreds of people are missing, more than 6,000 have been left homeless, and an unknown number are thought dead after a portion of a still-under-construction hydroelectric dam in Laos' Attapeu province reportedly collapsed Monday night, per the AP. The country's KPL news agency, via the BBC, reports that the collapse of an auxiliary dam attached to the main Xepian-Xe Nam Noy hydropower dam led to flash floods in the southeastern Laos province, sending locals to the roofs of their houses and boats out to rescue survivors. The New York Times notes that 175 billion cubic feet of water gushed out and flooded the area; Sky News notes that's about the amount that would fill 2 million Olympic-size swimming pools.

The dam, which was on schedule to open in 2019, is a joint project run by two South Korean companies, including SK Engineering and Construction, as well as Thai and Lao lenders. An SK E&C official quoted by the Yonhap news agency says a deluge of rain that's about three times more than usual had flooded the auxiliary dam. Yonhap says officials are still trying to figure out if the dam overflowed or simply gave way. The dam in Laos, one of Asia's most poverty-stricken nations, was set to bring in billions of dollars for the country by helping to generate electricity that would mostly be exported to Thailand. (More Laos stories.)

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