Flooding from heavy rainfall has killed at least six people in northern Laos’ Luang Prabang province since the weekend, an official from the provincial Labor and Social Welfare Department said Thursday, as the Southeast Asian is battered by seasonal monsoons.
“Six are dead — two in Nam Bak district, one in Luang Prabang city, one in Ngeun district, and one in Ngon district, plus one child from an unknown location,” said the official who declined to be named.
“After the heavy rain, water gushed into rivers and valleys, [and] people who had just gotten home from their farmlands were swept away by the currents,” he said.
The number of deaths could be higher because many places are not accessible, with roads cut off by flooding, collapsed bridges, and landslides, he added.
Many villages and districts have not yet reported numbers of casualties and damage, the official said.
Both the northern and central parts of Laos have borne the brunt of nonstop rains since Aug. 26. The deluge has intensified since Tuesday, flooding nearly all provinces in the regions.
In Luang Prabang province, the main thoroughfare — Road No. 13 North — has been blocked by mud from landslides in many areas, including the road between Nam Nga and Xieingda villages in Nam Bak district.
Flooding has affected all 12 districts and 58 villages in Luang Prabang province alone, and a flash flood wiped out an entire village in Phongsaly province in the far north of Laos.
“Vang Doi village is flooded,” an official from the provincial meteorology department told RFA’s Lao Service on Thursday, adding that residents are terrified and that their rice fields and roads have been destroyed.
Other northern provinces such as Oudomxay, Xayaburi, and Houaphanh have also seen heavy flooding and landslides from torrential rains, with bridges swept away and Road No. 6B in Houaphanh cut off.
In the central provinces, operators of the Nam Ngum 1 dam have been releasing additional water for the last several days, causing severe flooding of homes and rice fields in villages in Vientiane province and in the capital Vientiane.
Local authorities said the 354-kilometer (219-mile) long Nam Ngum River is overflowing on account of continuous rainfall, as well as water released from Nam Ngum 1 dam.
Earlier this month, hydropower operators released water from six dams, including the Nam Ngum 1 in Vientiane province, following heavy rainfall.
A villager in Vientiane city’s Naxaythong district told RFA on Tuesday that residents are running short of food and drinking water.
The Xaythany district government said local officials are working with villages to get through the crisis, and that residents should report health issues arising from the flooding to the district's health department.
Thousands of primary and secondary school across the country have been flooded and will not be able to open for the start of the school year on Sept. 3, sources said.
Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Max Avary. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.