Rescuers battle to search for 131 still missing: PM Thongloun

Laotian rescuers are battling to search for 131 villagers still missing since Monday night after a fracture in Xe Pian Xe Namnoy hydropower dam caused devastating flooding in villages in Attapeu province, Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith said.

“Impact of this flooding is enormous,” he told media in a press briefing yesterday afternoon after arriving in Vientiane from his trip to the flooded areas in  Sanamxay district of the southern province, according to Vientiane Times which said the disaster left 3,060 people homeless.

It also reported that those who sought shelters on rooftops and trees have all been rescued by Tuesday evening.

Only one has been found dead and the body has been rescued as of yesterday evening, the district governor, Mr Bounhome Phommasane told Vientiane Times.

His comment contradicted reports carried by many media outlets that put the death toll at 19 or more.

“Those reports got information from sources who assumed the vulnerable missing people were dead,” said the governor, who was stationed at the rescue operation site.

“I cannot confirm if they are dead or still alive. We have not found them.”

The assumption came as vulnerable people such as children and elderly people were swept away and they were unlikely be able to help themselves, officials explained, adding that the assumed 19 or more deaths were included in the 131 missing victims.

Rescuers are battling with decreasing water depth, which is hard for boats to travel to reach areas.

Aid reliefs such as food and clothes are urgently needed to help the victims who have been temporarily sheltered at various locations,  Prime Minister Thongloun was quoting as saying.

“The rescued villagers have undergone health check-up and provided with basic needs,” he said.

The premier thanked all sectors for extending supports and assistances for the rescue and relief operation.

Affected villages increased to 13 after the flooded water flowed further to another five or six villages.

Saddle Dam D, which is 8 meters wide, 770 meters long and 16 meters high, built in support for the water diversion around the Xe-Namnoy reservoir, Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy Hydroelectric Power Project has collapsed causing the flash flood and submerged villages.