Cambodia to evacuate 25,000 people downstream of collapsed Laos dam

An estimated 25,000 people are being evacuated from a northern Cambodian province following extensive flooding due to...

Posted: Jul 26, 2018 2:33 PM
Updated: Jul 26, 2018 2:33 PM

An estimated 25,000 people are being evacuated from a northern Cambodian province following extensive flooding due to the collapse of a massive hydropower dam in neighboring Laos.

Authorities in Stung Treng province are attempting to evacuate towns and villages downstream from the dam, which has caused waters to rise above 12 meters (39 feet) in places, according to Cambodia's state news agency.

The agency quoted a spokesman for the Cambodian Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology who said there was no sign of waters receding as of Thursday afternoon.

The collapse of the hydropower dam has already left at least 26 people dead and another 6,000 homeless in southern Laos, the worst disaster faced by the small Southeast Asian country in decades, according to Laotian Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith.

"The strong tide of water from the broken dam immediately flowed through the community and washed away houses and villagers; many people were unable to move to the highland," Sisoulith said at a news conference Wednesday after visiting the affected areas.

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. Monday in Laos' sparsely populated Attapeu province.

The dam's collapse occurred without warning and inundated entire villages with more than 5 billion cubic meters of water.

Bounhom Phommasan, Attapeu province's district governor, said authorities have rescued 2,851 from the floods but more than 3,000 are awaiting rescue, according to Laos state media.

At least 26 bodies have been retrieved from the muddy floodwaters. Rescuers are still searching for 131, according to the Prime Minister.

Up to 11,777 people were affected by the dam collapse, with up to 6,000 displaced, according to figures from the United Nations. Aerial images showed towns swallowed by water, with residents waiting on rooftops, with only a few possessions in hand.

The dam was built on a tributary of the Mekong River, the longest river in Southeast Asia. The Mekong, which runs from the Tibetan Plateau through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, is an important regional resource, providing fish stocks and electricity -- in the form of hydropower -- to the people who live along it.

The flooding in southern Laos was expected to cause water levels to rise downstream, according to the Mekong River Commission, the joint Lao-Cambodian-Vietnamese organization that manages the shared resources of the Mekong.

There is no news yet on what the damage or the death toll might look like in Cambodia, downriver of the shattered dam.

Sisoulith said an international rescue effort is underway, and authorities are working to relocate those who live downstream of the areas already flooded, which could be inundated in coming days.

Criticism of authorities

Some have criticized Laotian authorities for improper oversight and a lack of communication in the disaster's aftermath.

International Rivers, a US-based nongovernmental organization that has campaigned on behalf of residents who have opposed the dam's construction since 2013, said the collapse has exposed the need for greater regulation for dam construction.

"Many dams in operation or planned are not designed to be able to cope with extreme weather events," the group said in a statement.

"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."

Sebastien Perret, a member of Vientiane Rescue 1623 -- an independent aid group that helps with disaster response throughout Southeast Asia -- told CNN in Attapeu that the water appears to be receding slowly in southern Laos, but the weather changes hour to hour.

The most affected areas are remote, making aid efforts even more challenging, Perret said, adding it took his team 18 hours to get to the flooded areas of Attapeu, where Vientiane Rescue 1623 is helping authorities recover bodies and rescue survivors.

"This kind of disaster doesn't happen in this country very often, so we need more boats, we need more helicopters," he said.

Inquiry to be launched

Daovong Phonkeo, director-general of Laos' Department of Energy Policy and Planning, told CNN he believes the rescue effort has been well-organized.

The department was in charge of writing the safety standards for the dam, and Phonkeo said it will launch an inquiry to see if private companies building the dam abided by those regulations.

The dam was one of many being built in the Mekong Delta to bring renewable electricity to one of the world's most underdeveloped regions. Two of Attapeu province's most important industries are hydropower energy and electricity generation, according to the Laotian government.

Critics of the project said dams on the Mekong do not outweigh its impact on the environment and local ecosystems.

West Lafayette
Partly Cloudy
74° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 74°
Kokomo
Mostly Cloudy
76° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 76°
Rensselaer
Partly Cloudy
75° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 75°
Fowler
Partly Cloudy
74° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 74°
Williamsport
Partly Cloudy
69° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 69°
Crawfordsville
Partly Cloudy
72° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 72°
Frankfort
Partly Cloudy
72° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 72°
Delphi
Partly Cloudy
76° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 78°
Monticello
Partly Cloudy
75° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 75°
Logansport
Partly Cloudy
73° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 73°
Comfortable weekend with a few spotty showers & t'showers...
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 771299

Reported Deaths: 14005
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1059471808
Lake570611031
Allen43193700
Hamilton37458426
St. Joseph37420568
Elkhart29819471
Tippecanoe23584231
Vanderburgh23431405
Porter19616327
Johnson18899394
Hendricks18168323
Clark13623199
Madison13604348
Vigo12908256
Monroe12626178
LaPorte12594225
Delaware11183198
Howard10747237
Kosciusko9810124
Hancock8799150
Bartholomew8296157
Warrick8150157
Floyd8072183
Grant7397181
Wayne7254201
Boone7236105
Morgan6948143
Marshall6358117
Dubois6301118
Cass6110112
Dearborn604078
Noble603590
Henry5971111
Jackson518677
Shelby512898
Lawrence4961127
Gibson467296
Montgomery461392
Clinton458455
DeKalb458485
Harrison456977
Huntington421382
Whitley418645
Steuben412861
Miami407273
Jasper402556
Knox393191
Putnam386862
Wabash371684
Adams355356
Ripley352771
Jefferson347187
White340954
Daviess3098100
Wells304881
Greene295985
Decatur293493
Fayette287464
Posey285435
Scott283458
LaGrange278472
Clay276049
Washington255637
Randolph248283
Jennings240449
Spencer239731
Fountain237250
Starke230859
Owen224759
Sullivan222943
Fulton209545
Jay203432
Carroll198822
Orange192756
Perry191939
Vermillion181944
Rush178627
Tipton173848
Franklin173035
Parke156816
Pike143434
Blackford138232
Pulaski124048
Newton123736
Benton110515
Brown106443
Crawford106316
Martin92715
Warren88015
Switzerland8488
Union73710
Ohio58411
Unassigned0429

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events