Rescue work under way in villages flooded by Laos dam breach

The website of the state-run Vientiane Times newspaper said two people were confirmed dead as of Tuesday afternoon and the government had declared the area an emergency disaster zone.

"We will continue with rescue efforts today but it's very hard, the conditions are very hard", the official said. Dozens of people are dead.

Villagers take refuge on a rooftop above floodwaters from a collapsed dam in southeastern Laos on Tuesday after a newly built hydroelectric dam was breached in southeastern Laos.

Footage of the disaster has shown survivors huddled on roof tops of their submerged homes, or wading through water, holding children and their belongings.

Others showed villagers trying to board wooden boats to safety in Attapeu province, the southernmost part of the country.

Reports on one media site said millions of tonnes of water had inundated surrounding land, washing away villages and homes.

Its government depends nearly entirely on outside developers to build its planned portfolio of dams under commercial concessions that agree to export electricity to its more developed neighbors, including power-hungry Thailand.

Environmental rights groups had for years raised concerns about Laos' hydropower ambitions.

.

Rescue workers in Nakhon Ratchasima province prepare their gear before leaving for Laos to support rescue missions in response to a hydropower dam collapse.

Laos has been keen to turn itself into "the battery of Southeast Asia" with a series of massive hydropower projects that has sparked opposition in downstream Mekong nations like Vietnam and Cambodia, who fear it will disrupt vital ecosystems, fisheries, and their own river systems. It is part of a network of two main dams and five subsidiary dams in the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy hydroelectric power project.

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The firm blamed the collapse on heavy rain.

Many areas of Laos have recently been hit by floods from heavy monsoon rains.

SK Engineering says it warned the government about further damage to the dam around noon, a few hours before the collapse.

Shares in major stakeholders of SK Engineering & Construction fell on Wednesday after news of the collapse.

SK E&C's biggest shareholder, SK Holdings Co Ltd, fell 6.2 per cent after the accident, marking its biggest daily percentage loss since February 11, 2016. The second biggest shareholder, SK Discovery Co Ltd (006120.KS), slid as much as 10 percent.

Maureen Harris is an expert on dam projects in Laos at the nonprofit International Rivers organization.

"The water's all out of the reservoir now and the water levels are already going down but I don't think they'll be able to fix it until the dry season", he said.

The remote area is only accessible by helicopter and flat-bottomed boats, with roads badly damaged by the flash flooding or completely washed away. "I don't think anybody really knows for sure", he said.

Laos has in recent years invested heavily in hydroelectric power - which makes up about 30% of its exports.

She said numerous victims had already been pushed from their communities and suffered economic harm from the dam project.

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