Oxfam responding to dam collapse disaster in Southern Laos

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Oxfam is preparing an emergency response after a dam collapse in Sanamxay district, Attapeu, Southern Laos caused a major flash flood.

More than 11,000 people are affected, with 3,060 people displaced, according to report by the UN issued as of 27 July. 19 are reported dead and 131 missing. 

The flood has caused severe impacts to properties by submerging basic infrastructure, roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, fields and irrigation systems.

The Government of Laos has declared the affected areas as a national disaster area. Military and Police officers have been deployed to search, rescue and evacuate victims to safer areas.

Oxfam is welcoming the open request for support from the Lao Government and is coordinating with them, UN and other international agencies on the emergency response and disaster relief to ensure support is timely and coordinated and plans on providing food relief, water and sanitation to affected families.

Oxfam is developing its emergency response in consultation with our partners and other key stakeholders that have projects in Attapeu province and affected areas. Oxfam is as well positively impressed by the enormous wave of solidarity among the Lao society, specially, Lao civil society organisations and those individuals who have rapidly reacted collecting items for the affected population.

Oxfam in Lao Country Director, Thibaut Hanquet expressed sorrow at the scale of the tragedy, adding the full extent of the damage will not be clear until affected areas become more accessible.

“This is terrible tragedy, which displaced over 3000 people and affected more than 11,000.  Oxfam is concerned this figure could rise as emergency response agencies get better access to the affected areas.

“We have to recall this is a man-made disaster.” 

According to the Vientiane Times, on Thursday, the Minister of Energy and Mines “confirmed the company would not be in a position to deny its responsibility” and made an assurance that in line with the concession agreement, incidents “related to the dam construction must be borne by the project developer 100 percent”[i].

We welcome this assurance made by the Minister of Energy and Mines that damages related to the dam will be borne by the companies involved. We also believe there is a need to review and improve enforcement of dam standards in Laos. This is in line with requests made by the National Assembly last year, following a dam break in Xieng Khuang Province, which damaged properties. Such disasters could and should be avoided at all costs as they have dramatic impact on people and their ability to move out of poverty,” said Thibaut Hanquet.  

Oxfam has operated in Lao PDR since the 1980s. Oxfam in Lao PDR works with a range of partners to improve the lives of women and men living in poverty in the Lao PDR.

.[i] Source: http://www.vientianetimes.org.la/FreeContent/FreeConten_Express173.php

Contact information: 

For more information, please contact Gary Lee, Water Governance Partnerships and Policy Advisor, Oxfam  MWRGP - focal point for  media requests.

Email: Gary.Lee@oxfam.org, telephone: + 856 20 5591 6283