11 July 2024

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha this morning expressed deep concerns over the plights of  thousands of  Lao people affected by the collapse of the Xepian-Xe Namnoy dam in Attapeu province of Laos as Laotian authorities continue the search for hundreds of people still missing.

Unofficial reports estimated that scores of people were killed and more than 1,300 families were left homeless while the flooding caused heavy damage to property and farmlands.

Government spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd quoted the prime minister as saying that what happened to Laos was very unfortunate and as its immediate neighbor Thailand is ready to  provide necessary assistance in the forms of rescue teams, medical aid, military personnel, electricians and equipment needed for the rescue operation.  He said Thailand would be ready to act once there is a request from Laos.

He said the Thai Embassy in Vientiane has opened a bank account to receive donations for victims of the dam disaster.   Lt Gen Sansern said the Thai Embassy will also open another bank account in Thailand for the convenience of donors.

The prime minister has conveyed his concern and moral support to the Lao people and agencies working to help the victims and prays for the situation to return to normal as soon as possible, said the spokesman.

Meanwhile, the South Korean firm helping to build the hydropower dam  said it warned the government and began evacuating villages as workers tried to avert disaster.

Employees of SK Engineering and Construction found the dam – part of a network of two main dams and five subsidiary dams under construction on a Mekong River tributary – partially washed out at 9 pm Sunday, the company said in a statement, and notified the authorities.

Thailand’s state-owned enterprise Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding, the Thai stakeholder in the US$1 billion hydropower project, said that the dam “was fractured” after “continuous rainstorms” caused a “high volume of water to flow into the project’s reservoir”.

An official from SK Engineering said the area had been hit by heavy rainfall three times greater than normal, reported Yonhap news agency.

Engineers struggled for almost 24 hours to try and prevent the inundation, according to the South Korean firm.

But efforts by SK Engineering to bring in heavy equipment for repairs overnight were delayed as heavy rains had damaged roads to the site. By 3 am Monday, an emergency valve at one of the main dams was opened to lower water levels, the company said.