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Hundreds missing after hydroelectric dam collapses in Laos

A hydroelectric dam collapsed in southeastern Laos, leaving an unknown number of people dead and hundreds missing, state media said Tuesday. Rescue efforts were underway as top government officials rushed to the site and public appeals were launched for aid.

The official Lao news agency KPL said the Xepian-Xe Nam Noy dam in Attapeu province collapsed Monday evening, releasing large amounts of water that swept away houses and left more than 6,600 people homeless.

The dam was constructed by a joint venture led by South Korean companies, with Thai and Lao partners. The project was still under construction, KPL reported. It described the portion that collapsed as a “saddle dam,” which is an auxiliary dam used to hold water beyond what is held by the main dam.

Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith “suspended the planned monthly meeting of the government for August and led his Cabinet members and other senior officials to Sanamxay [district] to monitor rescue and relief efforts being made for flood victims,” KPL said. Many areas of Laos have recently been hit by floods from heavy seasonal rains.

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Provincial authorities issued a call for emergency aid — clothing, food, drinking water, medicine, cash and other items — from the “party, government organizations, business community, officials, police and military forces and people of all strata.”

Laos, one of the poorest countries in Asia, has transitioned from communism to a market economy but remains a single-party state where freedoms are limited. There is virtually no freedom of the press, and foreign reporters who visit operate under tight restrictions, limiting the flow of information.

Electricity from several hydroelectric dams provides a large share of Laos’ export earnings, with Thailand being a major buyer.


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