Laos dam collapse: Worst dam disasters over the last 60 years

Villagers carry their belongings as they evacuate after the Xepian-Xe Nam Noy hydropower dam collapsed in Attapeu province, Laos, on July 24, 2018.
Villagers carry their belongings as they evacuate after the Xepian-Xe Nam Noy hydropower dam collapsed in Attapeu province, Laos, on July 24, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - Disasters involving collapsing dams or dykes, such as the accident in Laos that left hundreds of people missing on Tuesday (July 24), have claimed thousands of lives, with Asia hit particularly hard.

Here are the worst incidents over the last six decades.

Asia, accident prone

- China: Around 20,000 people are killed in August 1975 after the collapse of dams retaining the Banqiao and Shimantan reservoirs in the central province of Henan.

The disaster is only revealed in 1999 by the English-language China Daily, which reports the toll of 20,000 dead.

In August 1998, in the neighbouring province of Hubei, hundreds of people, including 150 soldiers, are killed after a dyke near the Yangtze River gives way over an area of more than 700 metres.

- India: About 1,300 people die in August 1979 when a dam bursts near the town of Morvi in the western state of Gujarat following torrential rain. According to unofficial estimates, the death toll may actually be nearer 25,000.

- Sri Lanka: In April 1986 an irrigation dam gives way in Kantalai in the northeast, leaving nearly 120 dead and missing, according to an official toll. The Red Cross toll for the dead and missing is 2,500.

- Kyrgyzstan: In July 1998 the bursting of a mountain dam worn down by melting snow and heavy rain causes the flooding of the Shakhimardan and Aksu rivers and surrounds.

More than 90 people die in an Uzbek enclave and at least a dozen in Kyrgyzstan, according to official tolls. The Red Cross puts the toll at 500-600 missing.

- Nepal: The bursting of a dam on the Bkakera river near the Indian border leaves 500 missing in July 1978.

Elsewhere in the world

- Italy: In October 1963 the mountain overlooking the Vajont dyke in the northeastern Dolomites gives way and more than 250 million cubic metres of rock and earth fall into the reservoir.

It causes a 250-metre-high  wave that wipes out several villages, killing 2,118 people.

- The United States: In August 2005, during Hurricane Katrina, the protective dykes overlooking the southern city of New Orleans collapse under the weight of the water, flooding 80 percent of the city and leaving at least 1,100 dead.

- Brazil: A thousand people die in March 1960 in the north-eastern state of Ceara when the Oros dam bursts.

- France: In December 1959, 423 people die when the Malpasset dam upstream of the southern coastal town of Frejus breaks, releasing 50 million cubic metres of water that sweep at 70 kilometres an hour across the enclosed Reyran valley.