Photos by: Bart Verweij, IFRC

On 23 July 2018, after days of heavy rainfall and floods, Laos’ Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy hydropower dam collapsed, releasing 5 billion cubic metres of waters down a tributary of the Mekong River. The resulting flash floods cut a path of destruction through 13 villages in the south-eastern province of Attapeu, which borders Cambodia, affecting more than 16,000 people, damaging houses, washing away livestock and submerging vital infrastructure.

Roads were inundated following the dam collapse, cutting off access to some communities. The floodwaters also damaged 14 bridges and other infrastructure.

Thahin village in south-east Laos is one of 13 villages devastated by the floods. Mr. Khambone’s house collapsed under the full force of the water, and he is now one of the 6,600 people staying in five evacuation centres.

Lao Red Cross sent trained rescue teams into the disaster areas to help evacuate survivors, some of whom were perched on the roofs of their houses. Lao Red Cross has also started distributing emergency relief kits including food, clothes, household items and blankets for people in evacuation centres. 

About 80 per cent of rural people in Laos are subsistence farmers, depending on rice, livestock and collecting food from the wild. With a lot of cultivated land and irrigation systems submerged or damaged, and livestock lost, communities are also facing longer-term impacts on their livelihoods and wellbeing.

Red Cross water purification units are working overtime providing people in affected communities with access to clean drinking water in an effort to keep them healthy and hydrated and prevent the spread of disease.

Photo by: Nacklakhone Phoungpala, Lao Red Cross

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched an emergency appeal seeking 2.9 million Swiss francs (2.9 million US dollars or 2.5 million euros) to help the 7,500 people worst affected by the disaster in Laos over the coming 18 months. The appeal focuses on providing shelter, helping families restore their lost income, and basic needs like health services, water, sanitation and promotion of best hygiene practices.