Despite frantic efforts by both Laotian and foreign rescue teams to reach flood victims in Sanamxay district of Attapeu province in southern Laos, a senior Laotian official admitted that they were able to cover only 30 per cent of the affected villages as of Thursday, according to Vientiane Times.
But the paper reported that so far only five people were confirmed dead after the latest fatality was officially recorded yesterday afternoon.
It said 126 persons remain missing as rescuers battle the elements in a time-consuming yet urgent search for signs of survivors, as well as the grim task of addressing the remains of the deceased.
It is expected that the official death toll will increase as most persons missing are children and elderly people who would be most unlikely to have survived the flooding, according to the official who is a member of the committee in charge of the victim assistance affairs.
“Some children swept away were just four or five years old,” he said, citing testimony offered by survivors.
Vientiane Times reported that the area affected by flooding caused by Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy hydropower reservoir’s saddle dam D collapse comprises diverse terrain, and flood-moved obstacles are also complicating the search and rescue work.
“The area of the affected villages is very large, involving forests and deep mud levels,” the official was quoted as saying.
“In some areas, mud is as high as four to five metres.”
The flash flood that occurred Monday submerged some six villages at first.
Floodwaters proceeded down the Xe Pian River to impact more communities, bringing the total flood-affected villages in Sanamxay district to 13.
About 20 rescue teams from many countries have participated in the search and rescue effort together with Lao organisations from various sectors.
As the water level decreases, rescuers have attempted to use four-wheel-drive vehicles and tractors to reach some villages where possible.
Boats are being utilised to reach those areas still flooded.
It was not confirmed as of yesterday at 3:00 pm exactly how many persons had been rescued alive today.
“Rescuers are still at the sites, and they will return [to command centre] at around 7:00 – 8:00 pm, then a conclusion can be drawn on the day’s results,” the official said.
Thousands of people have been relocated to eight temporary shelter centres in Attapeu and Champassak provinces, Sanamxay district governor, Mr Bounhome Phommasane told Vientiane Times yesterday.
“Temporary shelter centres have become crowded, and we plan to build more centres,” he said, adding that poor road conditions and continuous rainfall hamper efforts.
Vientiane Times also reported that affected villages saw increased water is flowing further downstream of Xe Pian River furthering to Xekong river towards the border with Cambodia some 40-50 kilometres away.
Cambodia’s Ministry of Water Resource and Meteorology warned that residents along the Xekong River in Stung Treng province should brace for floods, according to Cambodia’s Khmer Times.