Hundreds missing in Laos after hydropower dam collapse

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A hydroelectric dam collapse in southeastern Laos unleashed a torrent of water that swept away homes and left hundreds missing, feared dead.

Pope Francis sent his condolences to the people of Laos on Tuesday, following the collapse of a hydroelectric dam in the southeast part of the country.

The water poured into six villages and affected 1,300 households and at least 6,000 people, Seoul Newspaper reported.

Construction of the dam, which is estimated to cost $1.02bn, began in 2013 and it was expected to start generating power this year, the state news agency said.

South Korea's Yonhap News agency quoted an unidentified official at SK Engineering & Construction, one of the two South Korean partners in the project, as saying rain in the area was triple the usual amount, and one of five auxiliary dams had overflowed.

A video posted by the ABC Laos news on its Facebook page showed villagers stopping to watch fast-flowing water from the side of a river bank.

The remaining 10 percent of power would be sold to the local grid under an agreement between the PNPC and the Electricite du Laos.

Laos Dam collapse
Laos Dam collapse People standing on the roofs of partially submerged houses

"We do not have any formal information yet about any casualties or how many are missing", an official in Attapeu province, where much of the flooding occurred, told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding that was "no phone signal" in the flooded region.

Villagers take refuge on a rooftop above flood waters from a collapsed dam in the Attapeu district of southeastern Laos, July 24, 2018.

Aiming to become the battery of Southeast Asia, Laos has laid out a hydropower development plan that includes 72 large projects, many of which target electricity exports rather than production for domestic usage.

As well as disquiet within Laos, several neighbouring nations are anxious its ambition to become the "battery of southeast Asia" will disrupt vital ecosystems and their own river systems.

The country has around 10 dams in operation, 10 to 20 under construction, and dozens more in planning stages.

Six Vietnamese workers were killed when a gas cylinder exploded at the construction site of a hydropower plant in central Laos in July previous year.

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