23 May 2024

Many victims of the floods that devastated several villages in Sanamxay district of Attapeu province in southern Laos have returned to their villages only to see what was left of their homes.

The Vientiane Times, the official media outlet of the Laotian government, talked to some of them who recalled the horror they and their families faced as floods unleashed by the partial collapse of the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy dam hit their villages Monday night, Mrs Phit, 46, of Mai village recounted her tale of survival.

“On the day the water came my husband was seriously sick, and my children went with him to town. I was alone in the house. While I was sleeping, I heard screaming ‘dam broken, four or five people killed!’.”

“I ran out of the bedroom and tried to find out what was happening.”

Mrs Phit saw her neighbours moving their belongings to higher places. “Unfortunately, my vehicle’s engine did not work. Suddenly the water came, and I could not take any belongings. “I waded and swam from this to that point then my nephew pulled me up onto the roof of the house.

“It was about 10:00 or 11:00 pm and many of us stayed there on the roof until 3:00 am when we were transported out by boat. The water level had reached the second floor of the house,” she said.

Video footage was also posted online by various outlets including Tholakhong that shared the story of Mr Vanh and Mrs Duang from Hinla village. They said the chief of the village informed villagers that a strong current of water would come at about 8:00 pm, asking villagers to prepare and evacuate. The limited time left the couple and their children unable to escape. “Strong currents came damaging some part of our house and sweeping away my husband and some children. Only me and my daughter were stranded on my house,” Mrs Duang said in the footage, which was recorded at Attapeu hospital.

A flood-borne object injured her daughter, leaving her with a forehead wound bleeding profusely.

“Blood covered her face, and I could just recognise her,” she said. The injured daughter strived to pull up Mrs Duang on to the second floor of the damaged house. “Leave me, my daughter, I cannot climb up,” she told her girl. However, the lass did not let go.  “I will die with you, mother,” the daughter replied, Mrs Duang said.

The strong current had swept away some of Mrs Duang’s clothing.

With her daughter’s help, the mother was able to climb up.

“Mom, I will surely die,” the daughter cried as her mother was caring for her forehead injury. As the water level continues to increase, the two clambered on to the rooftop to escape the water. “We bent the zinc-roof and climbed on the top,” she said.

Then a strong current then swept away the roof carrying the mother and the daughter on top. Fortunately, on the way, the two floated past a tree and held on by a limb until they were rescued.

“I didn’t think we would survive,” she told her interviewers.

Fortunately, all the family members were saved as the husband, and other children also held on to trees elsewhere, even though the remaining story was not detailed in this video. Mr Vanh said they lost gold and cash, saved from selling land, to the strong current amounting to dozens of millions of kip.

Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith told media on Wednesday that a warning was issued to inform people before the flooding, but admitted that warning period was limited thus evacuation was not completed on time in some circumstances.

Meanwhile, some people were reluctant to believe the warnings. “This was a weak point of both sides [authorities and project developers] that we need to work on together,” he said.