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36 confirmed dead, 98 still missing after dam collapse in southern Laos

Staff Writer |
Lao military personnel and a rescue team from Singapore are continuing the search for the 98 people still missing in the wake of the dam burst, with the number of dead confirmed at 36, local daily Vientiane Times reported Monday.

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The search for those still missing after the district was inundated following the collapse of a dam wall involves teams from the Lao army and a rescue team from Singapore, who are scouring the area in hopes of finding other victims.

Phalom Linthong, deputy director general of the General Political Department, Lao People's Army, said "On Saturday, we found the body of a three-year-old girl in Hinlath village. This brings the number of known fatalities to 36, including three injured people who died in hospital."

Some 585 army personnel and 17 rescuers from Singapore are still continuing the search for missing people but they are hampered by thick mud, which makes it difficult to locate bodies, he said.

"The operation is not easy because many areas remain flooded after a week of rain and we are constantly encountering challenges caused by the thick mud, sand, and buried objects," he added.

"We need more equipment to help penetrate the mud. Soldiers and the Singapore rescue team are having to wade and walk through muddy water, mud, fallen trees and buildings in the search for the missing," Brigadier General Phalom said to media on Sunday.

The two groups are now focusing on Mai, Hinlath, and Thasaengchan villages of Attapeu Province.

When the flood hit on July 23, rescue teams from Thailand, China, the Republic of Korea and Laos arrived on the scene to aid in the search, rescue and relief operation, the daily noted.

Authorities in Sanamxay have now moved the camps set up to accommodate those made homeless to asphalt roads after lower parts of the district flooded following several days of rain.

The rebuilding of the road and bridges to the disaster-hit areas is being accelerated to enable relief supplies transportation.

An under-construction saddle dam of the Xe Pian-Xe Nam Noy hydropower project, invested by South Korean, Thai and Lao companies, collapsed on July 23, unleashing a large amount of water into some 13 villages of Sanamxay district.

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