Chinese Cement Factory Blast Kills 1, Injures 20 in Laos

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laos-blast.jpg Scene of a blast at a Chinese cement plant in in Luang Prabang province in northern Laos that killed killing at least one person and injured more than 20 others, Oct 5, 2019.
Citizen journalist

An explosion Saturday caused by rock blasting for a Chinese cement plant in northern Laos tore through a village, killing at least one person and injuring more than 20 others, residents said.

Houses and vehicles were also wrecked by the blast in Phonemany village, Nam Bak district, Luang Prabang province.

The explosion was much more powerful than usual from rock blasting at the area and it appears that villagers were not warned in advance. The aftermath was caught on a video obtained by Radio Free Asia.

The video shows dust cascading from the blast site at a mountainside. There is debris strewn through a home, and people examining damaged cars and motorbikes.

A villager who witnessed the blast, about 500 meters (yards) from the village, told RFA on Sunday that: “The factory usually blasts the rock around 5 pm, but yesterday the explosion was more powerful because they used more explosive materials than usual.”

He added: “The Chinese factory never warns villagers of the blasts in advance.” The villager requested anonymity to avoid possible reprisals from authorities.

Villagers said at least one person was killed and more than 20 were injured.

A local Chinese-run clinic was inundated with injured people. Others were sent to the provincial capital of Luang Prabang for treatment.

Khammany Inthirath, minister of energy and mines, said Sunday that the government has sent a team to investigate what happened. “Now we do not have the answers. We might have more details in the evening,” the minister told RFA.

But around 6 pm, RFA called Khammany Inthirath for more information but he did not pick up the call.

The operator of the Chinese cement plant that has been running for some years near the village could not immediately be reached for comment.

The rapid proliferation of Chinese-owned industrial, hydropower, mining and tourism projects in Laos has caused friction with local residents over pollution, loss of farmland and economic compensation for displaced villagers.

Reported by RFA's Lao Service and translated by Ounkeo Souksavanh. Written in English by Matthew Pennington.


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