BREAKING NEWS U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dead at 87 Full Story
STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Thousands affected, scores missing after dam collapse floods towns in southern Laos

More than 10,000 people have been affected by a catastrophic dam collapse in southern Laos, according to figures publ...

Posted: Jul 26, 2018 8:50 AM
Updated: Jul 26, 2018 8:50 AM

More than 10,000 people have been affected by a catastrophic dam collapse in southern Laos, according to figures published by the United Nations.

An unknown number of houses were washed away in the torrent, with aerial images of the aftermath showing what appear to be entire villages submerged by muddy brown water. Survivors could be seen clinging onto rooftops, while others paddled through the flooded areas on makeshift rafts and boats.

Twenty-six bodies have been discovered by authorities and more than 1,300 houses found damaged, as rescuers descend on Sanamxay district, in Laos' Attapeu province, according to state-news agencies.

Rescuers are searching for 131 villagers who remain missing, Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith told reporters Wednesday, according to the state-run Vientiane Times.

Exactly how many people have been affected remains unclear.

A Laos government official told CNN that he expects the water level to decrease in the coming days and that people will be able to return to their villages.

In some areas, the water levels have decreased and people can now pass in their vehicles, according to the official. The rescue is ongoing and survivors are being relocated to the highest building in the area.

The Xepian Xe Nam Noy Dam, a billion dollar hydropower project part financed by South Korea, was still under construction when the breach occurred around 8 p.m. on Monday.

The collapse of the dam, which occurred without warning, unleashed approximately 5 billion cubic meters of water -- equivalent to 2 million Olympic-size swimming pools -- onto the surrounding countryside, according to state news agencies.

Laos is considered one of the world's least developed countries. Attapeu province, which is close to the Cambodian border, is home to an estimated 140,000 people, with many living close to the river system that feeds into the failed dam.

The Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Laos reported up to 11,777 people were affected by the dam collapse, with up to 6,000 people displaced.

Sisoulith suspended a planned monthly government meeting to monitor the rescue and relief efforts, the agency said.

Authorities have made a public appeal for emergency aid for the victims of the flooding, including clothing, food, water and medicine.

The disaster is so far known to have affected at least six villages in the Sanamxay district. Laos authorities have not given any official information about how badly the dam has been damaged, what caused it to break or when the flooding is expected to recede.

Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding Public Company Limited, one of the dam's four shareholders, said the incident was caused by the "continuous rainstorm which caused high volume of water to flow into the Project's reservoir."

The dam project was 90% completed and scheduled to start commercial operations next year, Ratchaburi said.

The company announced Wednesday it would provide about $40,000 for relief efforts and that its high-level executive had traveled to Laos for further support.

Mekong development

The failed dam, which is part of a series of dams, was intended to generate hydroelectric power.

Hydropower energy and electricity generation are two of the major industries in Attapeu, according to the Laotian government.

The incident has shone a light on the development of the Mekong River Delta region, and aid groups like US-based International Rivers are warning the dam collapse should serve as a warning for future development.

"Communities were not given sufficient advanced warning to ensure their safety and that of their families. This event raises major questions about dam standards and dam safety in Laos, including their appropriateness to deal with weather conditions and risks," the group said in a news release.

The push to build dams throughout the Mekong River Delta has been fraught with controversy.

While dam proponents argue they will help bring renewable electricity to a poorly developed corner of the world, the long-term changes to the environment and ecosystem -- especially fisheries -- have proved controversial.

"The Mekong Basin's fisheries are a vital resource, providing food security and livelihoods for millions of people, many of whom have limited opportunities to increase their food production or income," said a report published by the Mekong River Commission in December 2017.

Construction on the dam began in February 2013. It was to cost an estimated $1.02 billion. Four companies were in charge of the venture: Ratchaburi, Korea Western Power Co. Ltd., SK Engineering & Construction Co. Ltd and Lao Holding State Enterprise, a state-owned firm, according to a website that appears to belong to the consortium building the dam.

The site said the project is expected to produce 1,879 gigawatt-hours of electricity a year, 90% of which was supposed to be exported to Thailand. The rest was to be sold to the local grid.

SK Engineering & Construction Co., which is building the dam, has dispatched a rescue crew including helicopters and boats to Laos, South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Tuesday.

According to the ministry, 53 Koreans who were working at the site have been evacuated.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 91935

Reported Deaths: 2780
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds6903153
DeSoto532153
Harrison368771
Jackson334367
Madison318086
Rankin313473
Lee254066
Jones236078
Forrest231069
Washington215671
Lafayette203039
Lauderdale1984123
Bolivar177465
Oktibbeha173749
Lamar156633
Neshoba1524103
Panola140926
Sunflower138543
Lowndes138457
Warren136650
Leflore134380
Pontotoc120416
Pike120148
Monroe117665
Scott115925
Copiah115433
Coahoma110927
Holmes108458
Marshall106714
Grenada104535
Lincoln104453
Yazoo103429
Simpson100142
Union96524
Tate94537
Leake93535
Adams89135
Wayne87121
Pearl River84850
Marion83633
Covington79321
Prentiss78617
Alcorn75310
Newton74722
Itawamba74121
George73913
Tallahatchie73418
Winston71919
Tishomingo65035
Attala63625
Chickasaw63524
Tippah63516
Walthall58925
Clay56216
Hancock55420
Noxubee54015
Jasper53615
Clarke52538
Smith51714
Calhoun50612
Tunica47213
Montgomery45020
Claiborne44916
Lawrence42212
Yalobusha41314
Perry39016
Humphreys36915
Quitman3625
Stone34611
Greene33516
Webster32813
Jefferson Davis32211
Carroll30812
Amite30710
Wilkinson30117
Kemper28515
Sharkey25812
Jefferson2359
Benton2151
Franklin1863
Choctaw1775
Issaquena1033
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 128818

Reported Deaths: 2284
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson18648332
Mobile12949288
Montgomery8560170
Madison736573
Tuscaloosa7015112
Lee558259
Shelby550149
Baldwin502148
Marshall376342
Etowah326344
Calhoun321139
Morgan312925
Houston260621
Elmore247547
DeKalb230119
St. Clair218134
Walker217780
Talladega199925
Limestone191919
Cullman180017
Franklin172728
Dallas172526
Russell16912
Autauga162424
Lauderdale159231
Colbert157224
Escambia154324
Blount150413
Jackson146610
Chilton143325
Dale128042
Covington127027
Coffee12388
Pike11329
Tallapoosa112483
Chambers110642
Clarke104417
Marion91428
Butler90238
Barbour8097
Marengo69319
Winston68512
Lowndes64327
Pickens62214
Bibb6179
Hale60828
Bullock58514
Randolph58512
Lawrence57620
Monroe5708
Washington54513
Geneva5404
Perry5356
Wilcox52911
Cherokee52816
Clay5187
Conecuh51611
Crenshaw51531
Macon46619
Henry4524
Sumter41719
Fayette4128
Choctaw34212
Lamar3302
Cleburne3116
Greene29915
Coosa1573
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 72°
Columbus
Clear
74° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 74°
Oxford
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 72°
Starkville
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 73°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather