Laos tragedy: Thick mud hampers rescue efforts

A lorry carrying Singapore Red Cross relief supplies stuck in 6 inches of mud at the Sanamxai evacuation centre, on July 28, 2018.
A lorry carrying Singapore Red Cross relief supplies stuck in 6 inches of mud at the Sanamxai evacuation centre, on July 28, 2018. ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO KK

ATTAPEU (LAOS) • Rescuers battled thick mud and flood waters across a swath of remote southern Laos to find survivors of last Monday's deadly dam burst that submerged entire villages.

The exact number of dead and missing remains unclear because of the complexity of the rescue operation and contradictory official statements.

Rescue mission head Kumriang Authakaison said yesterday that eight people were confirmed dead, down from 27 reported earlier. He added that 123 were confirmed missing. But Attapeu province committee deputy secretary Meenaporn Chaichompoo said a day earlier that "we can't find 1,126 people".

Questions are being raised about the quality of the construction of the US$1.2 billion (S$1.6 billion) dam.

Laos Energy and Mines Minister Khammany Inthirath said in a radio interview last Friday: "It might be construction technique that led to the collapse."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 29, 2018, with the headline 'Laos tragedy: Thick mud hampers rescue efforts'. Print Edition | Subscribe