Laos dam collapse: Seventeen bodies found after billions of gallons of water flood homes
Seventeen people are confirmed dead and hundreds missing after a hydropower dam collapsed in Laos, releasing five billion cubic metres of water towards vulnerable villages.
Rescuers including the military and police rushed to the flooded area, in the San Sai district of Attapeu province, to save villagers by boat.
Survivors including young children climbed onto the roofs of homes, huddled under umbrellas as rain fell and waited hours before they were finally rescued.
They piled into long boats which carried them to safety after surging water inundated six villages when the £762m Xepian-Xe Nam Noy dam, which was under construction, collapsed on Monday night.
Reports claim more than 1,300 homes were inundated - with some being swept away - and more than 6,600 people have been left homeless by the flash floods.
Survivors have lost most or all of their belongings in the disaster.
People were moved away from the murky, fast-flowing floodwater and given shelter under tarpaulins at a temporary camp on higher ground.
SK Engineering & Construction, the company building the dam, told Reuters that heavy rain and flooding caused the collapse, and it was cooperating with the Laos government to help rescue villagers.
Southern Laos has been hit by heavy rain and flooding in recent days.
A spokesman for the company: "We are running an emergency team and planning to help evacuate and rescue residents in villages near the dam."
The state news report stated: "The dam collapsed at 8pm on Monday releasing five billion cubic metres of waters with several houses in the southern part of Sanamxay swept away, several human lives claimed, and several hundreds of people missing."
The 410 MW dam was being built by the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy Power Company (PNPC) in the south-east of the country.
It was expected to generate about 1,860 GWh of electricity every year, state media said.
Construction started in February 2013 - with an estimated cost of $1bn (£762m) - and the dam was expected to begin commercial operations in 2019.
It was to export 90 per cent of its power to Thailand under a Power Purchase Agreement between the Xe-Pian-Xe Namnoy Power Company (PNPC) and the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT).
The remaining 10 percent of power would be sold to the local grid under an agreement between the PNPC and the Electricite du Laos.
Thongloun Sisoulith, the prime minister of Laos, suspended a monthly meeting and has gathered his cabinet and senior officials near the flooded villages to monitor the rescue and relief efforts, state media reported.
Amid the disaster relief effort, a campaign has been launched to collect clothes, food, drinking water, medicine, funds and other supplies for the survivors.
Laos, one of Asia's poorest and most secretive countries, is aiming to become the "battery of Asia" by selling power to its neighbours through a series of hydropower dams.
Environmental rights groups have for years raised concerns about communist Laos' hydropower ambitions, Reuters reported.
They have expressed fears over the impact of dams on the Mekong River, its flora and fauna and the rural communities and local economies that depend on it.