Rescuers arrive for 3000 stranded in Laos | Innovation Tech

Rescue teams from China and Thailand have headed into a remote part of landlocked Laos, where more than 3000 people were stranded after a dam collapse sent a deluge of water across a swathe of villages.

The Vientiane Times, citing district Governor Bounhom Phommasane, said about 19 people had been “found dead”. While nearly 3000 had been plucked to safety, more than that number were awaiting rescue, many on the rooftops of submerged homes.

A senior Lao government official said dozens were feared dead after the failure of the dam – a subsidiary structure under construction as part of a hydroelectric project – on Monday.

“We will continue with rescue efforts today, but it’s very difficult, the conditions are very difficult. Dozens of people are dead. It could be higher,” said the official.

A United Nations report on the disaster put the death toll at five, with 34 missing, 1494 evacuated and 11,777 people in 357 villages affected. It said 20 houses were destroyed and more than 223 houses and 14 bridges damaged by the flooding.

However, a government official said hundreds were reported missing after at least seven villages were submerged in the Attapeu province, the southernmost part of the country.

State media showed pictures of villagers, some with young children, stranded on roofs of submerged houses, and others trying to board wooden boats.

Experts said the remoteness of the affected area could hamper relief operations.

“The roads are very poor,” Ian Baird, a professor of geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Laos expert, said.

“People don’t usually go in that area during the rainy season. There are mountains nearby that villagers might be able to get up on … I don’t think anybody really knows for sure.”

State media said a joint team of Lao and Chinese rescuers would reach Attapeu on Wednesday afternoon, and it showed a long line of cars with boats on trailers heading into the country from northeast Thailand. South Korea and Singapore have also offered to help in the rescue effort.

Laos, one of the world’s few remaining communist states and one of Asia’s poorest countries, has ambitions to become the “battery of Asia” through the construction of multiple dams.

Its government depends almost entirely on outside developers to build the dams under commercial concessions that involve the export of electricity to more developed neighbours, including power-hungry Thailand.

Rights groups have repeatedly warned against the human and environmental cost of the dam drive, including damage to the already fragile ecosystem of the region’s rivers.

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