August 20, 2018
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Laos government appoints committees to launch Attapeu dam collapse probe

Bangkok Desk, Aug 10 (efe-epa).- Two committees have been set up to investigate the Laos hydropower dam collapse last month which killed dozens of people and left thousands homeless, official media reported Friday.

At least 13 villages in southern Attapeu province were flooded on Jul. 23 by the five billion cubic meters of water released by the collapse of a section of the network of dams that Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy Power Company (PNPC) was building.

A total of 13,000 people in these villages were affected, with more than 7,000 displaced villagers now living in temporary accommodation centers.

Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith has issued two formal decisions to establish the committees, the official Vientiane Times reported on Friday.

The first committee of 14 representatives of various ministries and organizations will investigate why the dam wall collapsed by looking into survey, design, construction, inspection and approvals of construction standards.

"PM Thongloun told the fact-finding committee to expedite the investigation thoroughly and in a transparent manner so that the findings were accepted domestically and internationally," the report said.

"The committee was told to scrutinise the internationally-recognised Lao and foreign experts and observers who would assist with the investigation," it added.

The second committee will investigate the responsibilities of the individuals involved in the hydropower project, as well as any law violations.

The two groups have been asked to provide regular reports to the government.

At least 35 people were killed in the disaster and about 100 are still missing, according to the Times.

The military is continuing to fly in food, water, clothing and medicine by helicopter to two of five temporary accommodation centers in Sanamxay district of Attapeu that are on higher ground.

The choppers cannot reach the other three centers, and trucks cannot access the area due to roads and bridges that were damaged by flooding.

The project developed by PNPC is part of a national plan to utilize the country's river network and make Laos a source of clean electricity for Southeast Asia.

The government blamed the catastrophe on the construction company (a joint venture by two Korean companies, one Thai and another Laotian) and said it would have to take full responsibility for the compensation process.

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