A dam under construction in the Laos southern province of Attapeu collapsed after heavy rainstorms. Hundreds of people still remain missing. An estimated number of people close to 7,000 have been left homeless. Laos authorities say, as of July 28, that the flooding has killed 27 people. The situation deeply saddens Ping Ping and myself. We have friends from Laos. Ping Ping is from Isaan, a region of Thailand whose people have close ties to Laos. The situation is a disaster as search efforts continue, aid arrives, and survivors are medically treated.
Laos borders Thailand from the north and the east. The country is poor. Most of its people live in rural areas and depend on agriculture. The Xepian-Xe Nam Noy dam project is located in the southernmost province of the country, Attapeu. The dam was still under construction. It is one of several being built in Laos as the country strives to become the main power source in South East Asia. The government also sells most of the electricity produced here abroad. Electricity has become a major export for this reason.
Workers found damage to the dam and next notified authorities. Authorities then began to evacuate nearby villagers. Workers immediately tried to repair the damage but could not do so in time. Continuous rainfall caused water to fill the project’s reservoir. Water then traveled downstream the Xe-Pian River. Villages then began to flood. Rescuers have found survivors stranded on rooftops and even in trees. Making matters worse, the most affected areas can only be reached by boat or helicopter. Flooding has displaced thousands both in Laos and in neighboring northern Cambodia as well.
Rescue and relief efforts have been underway. Many of the country’s closest neighbors are sending help. Other countries have also joined the effort. Vietnam has sent money for aid. Medics from China have come to help survivors. Thailand has joined rescue efforts. They have also sent food, water, and medicines. Singapore has been gathering water, food, supplies, and clothing too. South Korea has dispatched a relief team to the area. The United Nations have even offered assistance if need be.
Search and rescue operations struggle on. Meanwhile, aid is coming into the area. The last few days have been very hectic. The future for many remains uncertain. The area is a disaster zone. Laos is a neighbor, friend, and family to Thailand. Ping Ping and I pray while following the news. Many long, difficult days are still ahead. Please, pray for Laos.